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Democrats out of order on DREAM Act

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Democrats are threatening to block funding legislation that is needed to keep the government running unless the Republicans pass the DREAM Act of 2017, which would provide conditional permanent resident status for undocumented aliens whose parents brought them to the United States illegally when they were children.  

The Democrats have been trying unsuccessfully to get a DREAM Act passed for 16 years, and they are not likely to succeed with the DREAM Act of 2017 either.  

It was introduced in the Senate on July 20, 2017. An identical version was introduced in the House on July 26, 2017. Neither has had hearings or markups, which are required by what is referred to as the “regular order.”

{mosads}If the DREAM Act is passed without going through the checks and balances that are provided by regular order, it will represent little more than the partisan views of those who wrote it.


When President Obama gave up on passage of a DREAM Act during his administration, he established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to give them temporary lawful status.

According to USCIS data, there were 690,000 DACA participants when President Trump terminated the program on Sept. 5, 2017, subject to a six-month grace period to give Congress a chance to help them with legislation.

Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are urging Congress to pass the DREAM Act before the grace period expires, but DACA participants are not going to be in danger of being deported when that period expires.

Trump has tweeted that he will help them if Congress doesn’t:

It seems somewhat hypocritical for Schumer and Pelosi to be urging the passage of a DREAM Act without going through the regular order: They have expressed outrage in the past when the Republicans have resorted to such tactics.

For instance, when Republicans tried to rush the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill through the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act without going through the regular order, Schumer made the following statement on the floor of the Senate:

There is no regular order here. There are no bipartisan, public hearings on the Graham-Cassidy bill. … [I]t’s the same backroom, one-party sham of a legislative process that ultimately brought the other bill down. A contrived, 11th hour hearing on block grants in the Homeland Security Committee — a committee with such limited jurisdiction over healthcare matters — does not even come close to suggesting regular order. 

And when House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) abandoned the pledge he had made to return to regular order, Pelosi responded with an angry press statement claiming that, “It has long been clear that regular order is not as important to republicans as protecting their special interest agenda.” 

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the DREAM Act would make legal status available to 3.4 million undocumented aliens and would increase national budget deficits by $25.9 billion over the 2018-2027 period.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 established the largest legalization program we have ever had, and it only legalized 2.7 million aliens.

The extreme generosity of the DREAM Act of 2017 is unfair to the American citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents who have unconscionably long waits to be reunited with alien family members. As of November 2017, there were 4 million aliens with approved family-based visa petitions on the visa waiting list. 

Also, although 71 percent of the DACA participants are adults and therefore should be able to take care of themselves without parents, there are 2,000 participants who are under the age of 16 and still need parental care. But the bill doesn’t provide lawful status for their parents. How will the lawful status the bill gives these children help them if their parents are deported?

Another issue that needs attention is the waiver that is provided to make the applicants eligible for legalization despite inadmissibility under Section 212(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Criminal and related grounds); 212(a)(6)(E) (Smugglers); 212(a)(6)(G) (Student visa abusers); and section 212(a)(10) (D) (Unlawful voters). Some of these provisions include very serious offenses.

The waiver is available for humanitarian purposes, family unity, or if it is otherwise in the public interest, which is so vague that it does not provide any guidance for deciding when to grant it.    

And special attention should be given to adding provisions that would make it more difficult to use fraudulent documents to satisfy the eligibility requirements.

Congress needs to pass a bill to help alien children who were brought here illegally by their parents, but it should be a bill that has gone through the checks and balances of the legislative process.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years; he subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. 

Tags Chuck Schumer deferred action for childhood arrivals Donald Trump DREAM Act illegal alien Illegal immigration Immigration Nancy Pelosi Paul Ryan

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