WASHINGTON — House Democrats plan to present a broad immigration proposal Tuesday that would allow more than 2 million immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship, including “dreamers” and those with temporary work permits who could soon face deportation under Trump administration policies.
The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 comes two months after Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives and a day after the White House unveiled a budget proposal that would pour billions of dollars into a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and aims to increase immigration enforcement and border security.
The bill would offer green cards and a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children or teens — those known as “dreamers” — and to people now in the country on temporary permits that prevent them from being deported.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California, chair of the House Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee and the lead sponsor with Reps. Nydia Velazquez and Yvette Clarke, both Democrats from New York, said Speaker Nancy Pelosi has flagged the legislation as one of her top concerns.
“It’s a big priority for our caucus,” Roybal-Allard said in an interview. “There is a lot of support for the Dreamers from both sides of the aisle.”
The legislation faces significant hurdles from the GOP-controlled Senate and from President Donald Trump ahead of a 2020 election season that is expected to include continued robust debate about U.S. immigration policy.
It is unclear how many immigrants would benefit from the bill should it become law, but congressional aides said the number of dreamers likely would be similar to the 2.1 million people who would have been covered under a bipartisan measure that was proposed in 2017, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
That estimate is more than three times the 674,900 immigrants enrolled in the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as of February. Trump criticized the Obama administration’s program as a way to skirt Congress; he ended it in 2017.
But lawsuits ultimately resulted in blocking the president from rescinding their work permits, and the U.S. Supreme Court could take up the issue later this year. Democrats say they will refuse to include the legislation in budget negotiations.
The bill also would cover people with temporary protected status, which has allowed people from El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Somalia and other countries to avoid being deported to nations engulfed in war or affected by natural disasters. A smaller group of Liberians that has been granted Deferred Enforced Departure, also would be protected in the bill.
Though many have lived in the United States for decades with protected status, more than 417,000 immigrants who had the status as of November are not eligible to apply for citizenship.
Pelosi said the immigrants who would benefit from the bill “make America more American.
“Our new Democratic House Majority is proud to come together with great unity and strength to reverse the president’s disastrous decision to end DACA,” she said in a statement.
The proposed bill lays out different paths to citizenship for dreamers and those with temporary status.
Dreamers would be able to apply for 10-year conditional green cards if they came to the United States when they were 17 or younger and if they have lived in the country for at least four years, among other requirements. They would be able to obtain full green cards after completing at least two years of postsecondary education or military service or after working for three years.
Immigrants would not be allowed to apply if they have been convicted of crimes punishable by more than a year in prison or if they have been convicted of three or more offenses that carry sentences of longer than 90 days in jail.
The measure also calls for dreamers to be allowed to apply for federal financial aid to pay for college — which is currently prohibited — and would be allowed to apply to return to the United States if they were previously deported but meet all the other requirements.
Immigrants with temporary protected status or deferred deportations could immediately apply for green cards if they have been in the country for at least three years, had their status as of September 2016, and pass background checks.
Five years after obtaining a green card, both groups could apply for citizenship.