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Bill Provides Hope to Many but Needlessly Takes it from Others

Statement of Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director, National Immigrant Justice Center

As committee markup of the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) moves forward today in the U.S. House of Representatives, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is grateful to members of Congress who have shown their commitment to create permanent protection for members of our communities whose future was thrust into doubt when the Trump administration attempted to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs.

The Dream and Promise Act has the potential to redirect the national conversation about immigration policy away from the administration’s extreme anti-immigrant agenda and back to where it belongs: How do we create an immigration system that is welcoming, functional, and ensures stability for American communities and the millions of immigrants who have lived, contributed, and raised U.S. citizens in those communities for decades? We celebrate with our clients, co-workers, friends and loved ones who can look to a more secure future as this legislation moves forward.

Unfortunately, in critical ways, the version of the Dream and Promise Act moving forward this week also falls short.

A series of harmful amendments added to the bill by Democratic House Judiciary Committee leaders would put significant and unnecessary power in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an agency that increasingly prioritizes the removal of immigrants from the United States by any means necessary. Through changes made to the bill subsequent to its introduction but before it moved to the Judiciary Committee, DHS would have broad power to deny protection for individuals on the basis of any criminal conviction, juvenile delinquency, or conduct-based gang allegations. This process is layered on top of the bill’s already overly broad exclusions, which preclude many from eligibility to even apply for protections because of previous involvement in the criminal legal system. These amendments encourage racial profiling by an agency in which the practice already is rampant and create harsh exclusions which have never before been included in the Dream Act.

This week’s debate over the Dream and Promise Act lays important groundwork for immigration policymaking we hope will one day move forward under a different president — one who respects human rights and the importance of immigrants to American communities and families. NIJC is grateful to Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D-IL) and other members of Congress who have steadfastly supported a progressive and welcoming vision for the bill and opposed amendments criminalizing immigrants. We look forward to working with them and other representatives who refuse to buy into the president’s rhetoric of criminalization to build an immigration platform that Americans and their immigrant families and neighbors deserve.