House Dems reintroduce the Dream Act

House Dems reintroduce the Dream Act
© Greg Nash

House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a new version of the Dream Act amid renewed debate over border security funding.

It's the latest iteration of a proposal that's received varying degrees of bipartisan support since 2001 but has never managed to make it past both chambers.

The bill's proponents say that this time they aim to get it signed into law by President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE — or at least past the Senate and onto Trump's desk.

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The proposal includes a path to citizenship for many "Dreamers" — undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as minors — and beneficiaries of temporary protected status (TPS) and deferred enforced departure (DED), but it does not include any provisions on border security or immigration enforcement funding.

In all, the 2019 Dream and Promise Act could provide permanent immigration status to millions of people.

Together, Dreamers and beneficiaries of TPS and DED make up a population of immigrants who either lack legal status or could lose it — but never made a conscious decision to break U.S. immigration law.

That's helped the case for legislation to protect these groups, and Democrats are counting on polling, which shows around 80 percent support for legislation on the matter, to help bring in Republicans on the issue.

"Whether you are a Democrat or you are a Republican, as we travel to 2020, we gotta consider what our constituency wants, and I think they want relief for these young people," said Rep. Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralDems charge ahead on immigration Hispanic Caucus asks for meeting with top immigration official New Zealand mosque killings raise fears among US Muslims MORE (D-N.Y.).

The bill is likely to sail past the House and accrue some Republican support, but it will face stiff resistance to make the 60-vote threshold in the GOP-held Senate.

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"We'll push. We'll do our job and get it out of the House, and we'll push to get it out of the Senate, and I know the full weight of the country will be on the White House to pass this bill because these young people have given this movement a face. It's not an anonymous movement," said Espaillat, a member of the House Democratic whip team.

But Republicans who supported previous versions of the Dream Act are livid over what they call Democrats' failure to reach across the aisle on this version. Most prior iterations of the Dream Act included Republican co-sponsors from the get-go.

"My hope would be that Democrats would work with folks to actually get something done. My fear was that they would do something knowing that it couldn't get done for political reasons, and that's what this is," Rep. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartHere are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act House approves anti-LGBT discrimination Equality Act Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill MORE (R-Fla.) said.

Diaz-Balart, a veteran of several immigration reform negotiations, said he could end up voting for the Democratic proposal but blasted Democratic leadership for using the issue to score political points.

"I've voted for this 37 million times, sure. I don't want to get into hypotheticals. I have to see it. Having said that, I have voted for things like this a gazillion times. The question is, does this — if in fact this is what they're doing — have a chance to become law? I would tell you no," Diaz-Balart said.

Democrats, who promised action on immigration reform within the first 100 days of their House majority, opted to skip the often tedious process of negotiating with their opposition.

They're banking on support from some moderate Republicans who've voted in favor of similar proposals in the past but also on using Trump's words against him.

Trump administration officials have said that temporary programs and executive orders should not replace legislation from Congress.

The Dream and Promise Act, Democrats say, is their way to test Trump's commitment to his own words.

"It never needed to be this way. We could've preserved [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program]. We could've continued to do the TPS issuances. But this administration has just chosen to crack down with no interest in trying to fix it," said Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalPelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Immigration bills move forward amid political upheaval House Democrat: Seattle airport's ban on ICE detainee flights helps 'hold a lawless administration accountable' MORE (D-Wash.), an immigration policy expert who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

And Democrats aren't worried about lobbying the far right of the Republican Party.

Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenPelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' Hillicon Valley: Instagram cracks down on anti-vaccine tags | Facebook co-founder on fallout from call to break up company | House Dems reintroduce election security bill | Lawmakers offer bill requiring cyber, IT training for House House Dems reintroduce bill to protect elections from cyberattacks MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, said Republicans "should be able to vote for [the bill]."

"The people who want to regularize the status of the Dreamers can sign onto this bill. A lot of the people who say we have to do X or Y first don't really want to do it at all," Lofgren said.

"I've served with them now for 25 years. They're never going to support a bill. I don't understand their thinking, but that's where they are," she added.

Still, the latest Dream Act offers no quid pro quo for regularizing the status of millions of people.

Its proponents say that's a feature of the bill. Its detractors say it's a terminal glitch.

"We just did a big border security bill, where we spent billions of dollars on border security, so we didn't need to be threatened to do that. That's part of our job," Lofgren said.

"Some people say we should do E-Verify. If you did E-Verify in the fields of the United States, we wouldn't have any salads. I mean, you've got to reform the system and then enforce the heck out of it," she added.

Diaz-Balart said the political math just doesn't work that way.

"I keep hearing about these bipartisan efforts. They've spoken to no one. This is not an attempt to get something done. This is an attempt to score political points. Because if you want to get it done, this is not rocket science," he said.

"It's the fact that everybody has known that if you're going to do something like this, it's going to have to require some border security to do things like this," Diaz-Balart added. "To pretend that somehow they can do this without consulting anybody else, without involving any Republicans, and knowingly doing that, it means that they're knowingly trying to do something that will not become law, and that is unfortunate."