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Durbin Celebrates Upcoming 12th Anniversary of DACA, Calls on Congress to Finally Pass the Dream Act

In 2010, Durbin sent a bipartisan letter asking then-President Obama to stop the deportation of Dreamers—twelve years ago this Saturday, President Obama responded by announcing the DACA program

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and lead author of the Dream Act, celebrated the upcoming 12th anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and called on Congress to finally pass the Dream Act to give Dreamers a pathway to citizenship.

More than 20 years ago, Durbin first introduced the Dream Act—bipartisan legislation that would give undocumented immigrants who grew up in this country a chance to become American citizens.  In 2010, Durbin sent a letter, joined by the late Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), asking then-President Obama to stop the deportation of Dreamers.  Twelve years ago this Saturday, President Obama responded by announcing the DACA program.  More than 800,000 Dreamers have since come forward and received DACA, which has allowed them to contribute more fully to their country as teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, and small business owners.  Last month, Durbin chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the urgent need for Congress to pass legal protections for Dreamers.

“This week marks the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.  President Obama created DACA in response to a request that I made with [the late] Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana,” Durbin said.  “DACA has protected more than 830,000 young people from deportation—all of whom were brought to this country as children, some as old as just a few months.  Last month, I held a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on the importance of protecting Dreamers and DACA.  We heard from some amazing witnesses who showed why it is so important that we do this.  One of the witnesses was Officer Mitchell Soto-Rodriguez from my state of Illinois.  She is the first-ever DACA recipient to serve as a police officer with the Blue Island, Illinois Police Department.  She was very clear—without DACA, that would not have been possible.”

During his speech, Durbin told the story of Wilmer Palacios.  Wilmer’s story is the 143rd Dreamer story Durbin has shared on the Senate floor. 

Wilmer came from a small village in Guatemala to Los Angeles, California, when he was 14 years old.  He dreamed of being a registered nurse, but he did not think it was possible due to his immigration status.  The day Wilmer heard about DACA in 2012, he immediately switched his degree to pre-nursing—because for the first time, he would be able to fulfill his dream.

Wilmer has held DACA status almost since the program’s inception 12 years ago.  He now has a Master’s of Science degree in nursing and is a Registered Nurse and Family Nurse Practitioner in a medical/cardiac intensive care unit in Fresno, California.  Wilmer’s ultimate goal is to open his own medical clinic in a low-income community, and he would like to serve in the Army as a nurse practitioner—an area where we know the military is experiencing severe personnel shortages.

Wilmer recently said, “DACA has offered me freedom and opportunities that I never thought possible growing up, but I cannot deny that I also live in constant fear of the court decisions and presidential elections that can take that away.”

“DACA has allowed Wilmer to pursue his dreams for now, but it was always intended to be temporary until Congress acted… Since President Obama established the DACA program, Republicans have waged a relentless campaign to overturn DACA and deport these Dreamers back to countries they barely know,” Durbin said.  “Now this program is hanging by a thread in the courts, due to legal challenges from Republican state attorneys general—and DACA recipients, like Wilmer Palacios, are being forced to live with uncertainty every single day.”

Durbin concluded by calling on his colleagues to finally pass the Dream Act to give Dreamers a pathway to citizenship.  Current DACA recipients are protected from deportation for now, but due to lawsuits by extreme MAGA Republicans, their fates are in the hands of a Republican-appointed judge who has repeatedly found DACA and other programs like it unlawful.

“If my Republican colleagues will join us, Congress can protect Dreamers and DACA recipients.  I urge my colleagues—meet with Dreamers personally. You will realize they aren’t a threat to this country; they are the future of our country… they have earned the right to live in this country without fear.  They should be able to put down roots, start families, further their education, and continue contributing to our society without fear of deportation hanging over them.  It is time for Congress to get to work on a bipartisan basis and pass the Dream Act.  It’s the right thing—and it is long overdue,” said Durbin.

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.

The Dream Act was also included in the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that Durbin coauthored as part of the “Gang of Eight”—made up of four Democrats and four Republicans.  The 2013 bill passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32, but the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives refused to consider it.  Over the years, Senate Republicans have filibustered the Dream Act at least five times.