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Durbin: Let’s Work Together to Protect Our Brave Young Dreamers from Deportation

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin highlights his Dream Act, calls on Congress to act on immigration reform and secure our border

WASHINGTON  U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke on the Senate floor highlighting his bipartisan Dream Act of 2023, which he reintroduced last week with U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The legislation would allow noncitizens without lawful status who were brought to the United States as children and meet certain education or work requirements to earn lawful permanent residence.  Durbin and Graham have introduced identical legislation in the last three sessions of Congress.
These young people, known as Dreamers, have lived in America since they were children, built their lives here, and are American in every way except for their immigration status.  However, under current law there is often no chance for them to ever become citizens and fulfill their potential.
“For more than 20 years now, hundreds of thousands of young people in this country have been waiting on Congress to pass this bill.  Along the way, there have been some important victories, and some major setbacks, but through it all, one thing has remained steady and constant: The devotion of Dreamers to this country.  Dreamers have woven themselves into the fabric of our country.  Many of them were brought here as babies. They grew up alongside our kids, and pledged allegiance to the same American flag in the classroom.  And over the past 22 years, Dreamers have given everything they can to America—again and again.  They’ve served our nation as doctors, teachers, members of the military, and other essential roles that have helped move America forward… More than 800,000 Dreamers have received protection from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.  But DACA—which President Obama created in 2012—was never meant to be a permanent solution.  It was supposed to be a bridge until Congress can finally act on it,” said Durbin.
During his speech, Durbin went on to highlight two Dreamers and twin sisters, Karen and Judith, who came to the U.S. from Mexico when they were only two years old.  Due to their undocumented status, they faced a number of obstacles like not having health insurance and were not afforded the same opportunities as their classmates.  Despite these setbacks, they graduated high school as salutatorian and valedictorian, became Junior ROTC Academic Bowl National Qualifiers, AP Scholars with Distinction, National Hispanic Scholars, and National Honor Society inductees; and both currently attend Texas A&M University. 
Durbin continued, “Really, that should be the end of their story—for now but it’s not.  You see, a couple years ago, Karen and Judith’s paths diverged.  Not by choice, but because of the failures of our immigration system.  What do I mean?  Well, in 2020, Karen and Judith submitted their applications for DACA—but they did so one day apart.  A year or so later, Karen’s application was approved.  But before Judith even received a reply to her application, a federal judge in Texas—Judge Hanen—decided to hit the brakes.  He ruled that USCIS could not approve any DACA applications after his decision.  Judith has been living in limbo ever since that decision was handed down.  She can’t work.  And she has no idea what the future holds.  Ask yourself this: Will America be any better if these two sisters are deported back to Durango, Mexico?  Will we be any better if Judith and Karen are sent back to a country they don’t remember?  What about the more than 200,000 DACA recipients who worked on the frontlines of the pandemic as doctors, nurses, and paramedics, would America be better without them?  Of course not.”
Republican Governors like Texas’s Greg Abbott have led a relentless campaign to eliminate DACA and disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers.  Last October, the Fifth Circuit issued a ruling on DACA’s future. The court kept protections in place for now for current recipients, but sent the case back to Judge Hanen, who has repeatedly struck down the program.
DACA recipients and their households pay more than $5 billion in federal taxes every year.  That’s money for repairing roads and bridges, Social Security payments, and even Medicare and Medicaid.  By enacting the Dream Act, America’s GDP could increase by nearly $800 billion over the next decade and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process.
Durbin then called on his colleagues to work on a bipartisan basis to fix our broken immigration system and secure our border.  He praised President Biden and the Administration for their efforts to create a more efficient process that is already making a difference.  That new process has helped reduce the number of migrant crossings from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela by roughly 97 percent.
“It’s progress, but executive action can’t get the job done on its own.  Poll after poll shows that Americans of all political stripes want Congress to do something instead of making speeches on the floor,” said Durbin. “In fact, one recent poll showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans–Democrats, Independents, and Republicans–-support both protections for Dreamers and improving border security.  I want to put that in writing.  We’re going to put together a bill that addresses border security and the future of the Dream Act, and we need to do it soon.  If we have learned anything from last year’s election, it’s that America wants us to come together—on a bipartisan basis—to make our nation stronger, safer, and more prosperous.  I can think of no better place to start than with the Dream Act.”
Durbin concluded, “Let’s work together to protect our brave young Dreamers from deportation and secure America’s southern border.  There is no other option.”
The Dream Act of 2023 would allow these young people to earn lawful permanent residence and eventually American citizenship if they:
  • Came to the U.S. as children and are without lawful status;
  • Graduate from high school or obtain a GED;
  • Pursue higher education, work lawfully for at least three years, or serve in the military;
  • Pass security and law enforcement background checks and pay a reasonable application fee;
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the English language and a knowledge of United States history; and
  • Have not committed a felony or other serious crimes and do not pose a threat to our country.
Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.