A dream deferred – at least for now

Dreamers could lose their protected status under The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and risk deportation if Congress doesn’t act soon. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By Jane Adams

This week Dreamers – young immigrants brought to the United States by their parents – had their dreams deferred as Congress failed again to reach an agreement to offer them legal status and an earned path to citizenship.

The recent three-day government shutdown was triggered after Congress failed to pass a temporary continuing budget resolution. Democrats and some Republicans blocked the bill after the two parties failed to reach a deal over immigration and other issues. The shutdown ended after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised a vote on a legislative fix to The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by Feb. 8.

Without congressional action, the DACA program will end on March 5. That means the next day, thousands of young adults, who have only known America as home, will be at risk of deportation to a country they may have never visited or know anything about.

While Bread for the World continues to support the Dream Act of 2017 (S. 1615/ H.R. 3440), introduced by U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), it is now clear that for any legislation to move through both the House and Senate, it will have to address border security – key to any “dreamer” deal for congressional Republicans and the Trump administration. Improving access to a pathway to citizenship reduces hunger and poverty for undocumented immigrants and their families.

Over the past two weeks, multiple immigration bills have been introduced. After careful analysis and consultation with Dreamers and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, Bread for the World is endorsing the bipartisan Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act (H.R. 4796), introduced by Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas-23) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.-31). This bill would provide Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship, address the push factors of migration from Central America, and enacts metric-based border security strategy. While we do not endorse all its provisions, we believe that the bill overall is a step in the right direction toward a bipartisan compromise.

As Congress continues to debate U.S. immigration, Bread will continue to analyze the impact of any legislation that affects vulnerable families and communities. That’s why Bread is strongly opposed to the Securing America’s Future Act (H.R. 4760) introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.-6). The legislation does not provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers. Instead, it creates a new federal misdemeanor offense for violating any terms or conditions of admission. In fact, the legislation requires that any DACA recipient seeking legal status must maintain an annual income above 125 percent of the poverty line.

If a Dreamer falls below that threshold for 90 days they would become inadmissible. Not only would this lead to detention and deportation, but they would be guilty of a federal misdemeanor. The legislation basically criminalizes Dreamers struggling with poverty. We believe this is immoral and a harmful precedent to set for who gains legal status in United States. Furthermore, this bill would drastically cut family-based visas which would prevent families from uniting and staying together.

Passing meaningful legislation is at best an imperfect process. What lies ahead is the tough work of finding common ground and passing a law, either as standalone legislation or as part of another bill. Each day that we defer the dreams of these young people, we jeopardize the lives and well-being of hundreds of Dreamers and their families at risk of deportation.

Bread for the World believes that immigration decisions impact hunger and poverty and so Congress must act now.

Jane Adams is a domestic policy analyst at Bread for the World.

Related Resources