Over the past decade, Congress has tried and failed to tackle the issue of immigration reform. The result has been a years-long fight over the legality of executive programs instituted by the Obama administration, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
As Democrats and Republicans battle in the courtroom, 800,000 young people all across the country fear for their futures. In 2017, the Trump administration took executive action to rescind DACA, and as court injunctions maintain a precarious status quo for DACA recipients for the time being, these young people are being left in limbo.
This uncertainty has left 6,900 residents of my community, Virginia’s 10th Congressional district, living in constant fear that they could be torn away from the only life they’ve ever known and sent to a place they have no memory of, with no guarantee of a place to live, work, or go to school, all while often being unable to even speak or read the language of the country where they would be sent.
To me, this is unconscionable. How can we tell these young women and men, so many of whom are the embodiment of the American Dream, that we don’t want them here any longer? What could motivate someone to look at these hardworking people who are Americans in every way but their legal status and decide that they do not belong in the only country they’ve ever called home?
On Tuesday, June 4, the House voted to pass H.R. 6, the DREAM and Promise Act, to grant legal status and a pathway to citizenship for individuals who arrived in the U.S. as minors. This legislation upholds our values of welcoming immigrants and would finally provide permanent certainty and protection to aspiring Americans.
To be eligible, participants would first have to pay a fee and apply for conditional permanent status after providing biometric and biographic data. They would also have to pass national security and law enforcement background checks. This conditional permanent status would be granted for up to 10 years and would be dependent on the recipient holding a job, attending school, or serving in the military.
Only after having met these requirements, could individuals apply for full permanent residency. Five years after having received their green cards, permanent residents would be eligible to apply for citizenship.
I was motivated to run for Congress because many elected officials did not grasp how their decisions were impacting average people. The DREAM and Promise Act is a bill that will change lives. It will keep families together and empower young people to follow their dreams of getting an education and pursuing a career without the uncertainty of whether their days in this country are numbered.
Most important, it is an affirmation of our values as Americans; it is a powerful gesture of welcome and inclusion to millions who know America as a place of opportunity and hope.
Passing the DREAM and Promise Act in the House was an important step. Now, I urge my colleagues in the Senate to take swift bipartisan action in support of Dreamers.
The writer, a Democrat, represents Virginia’s 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district includes parts of Prince William County as well as the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.