House Democrats passed a bill Thursday to finally provide a path to citizenship for the millions of “Dreamer” immigrants living in the U.S.
The bill — which would provide permanent legal status and an option of citizenship for the roughly 2.5 million so-called “Dreamer” immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children — passed the Democrat-controlled chamber in a near party-line vote of 228-197. Nine Republicans, including New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, joined all 219 Democrats in backing the bill.
Rigid opposition among Senate Republicans means the measure faces a difficult path to passage.
“They’re so much of our country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said of Dreamers, who like many immigrants have worked in frontline jobs during the coronavirus pandemic. “These immigrant communities strengthen, enrich and ennoble our nation, and they must be allowed to stay.”
For the most part, Dreamers have been able to live in the U.S. legally on temporary visas since President Barack Obama issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memorandum in 2012.
However, DACA never gave Dreamers the option to seek permanent residency or citizenship — an omission the American Dream and Promise Act passed by the House Thursday aimed to rectify.
The bill would grant conditional legal status for 10 years to Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. when they were younger than 18, graduated high school and have no serious criminal records.
After 10 years, the bill would allow Dreamers the option the apply for permanent residency, so-called green cards, if they’d obtained a higher education degree, served in the military or held employment for at least three years.
But, like most of their House colleagues, Republicans in the 50-50 split Senate insist that any bill benefiting Dreamers would have to come with strings attached for bolstering security at the Mexican border, where U.S. authorities have recently reported a steep surge in arrivals of mostly Central American migrants.
Unlike the House, the Senate can only adopt most legislation if it first clears a procedural filibuster hurdle that requires 60 votes, meaning the support of at least 10 Republicans is required.
Getting 10 Republican votes may be an insurmountable obstacle for the American Dream and Promise Act.
It’s not the first time Congress has run into a roadblock while trying to help out Dreamers.
House Democrats passed a similar bill in 2019, only for Senate Republicans to refuse to even consider it, leaving it dead in its tracks.
New York Rep. Mondaire Jones, a progressive Democrat who represents parts of Westchester and Rockland Counties, accused Republicans of painting immigrants with a broad brush by pressing for border security as a prerequisite.
“Sometimes I stand in this chamber and I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone, listening to a number of my Republican colleagues espouse white supremacist ideology to denigrate our Dreamers,” Jones said.