Senators seek permanent status for immigrant 'dreamers'
Oregon's U.S. senators, both Democrats, called on the Republican majority to allow a vote on legislation to give permanent status to thousands of young immigrants brought to this country illegally as children.
Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden spoke out Thursday after the Supreme Court ruled against President Donald Trump's attempt to end their temporary protection from deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was set up in 2012 by President Barack Obama.
The Democratic-led House passed a bill (HR 6) to protect this group, known as Dreamers, more than a year ago. But it has stalled in the Senate, which has a Republican majority.
"DREAMers are members of virtually every community throughout our nation, and they are American in every way except for a piece of paper.
"Today's decision (by the court) should also be a stark reminder that DACA recipients' fate never should have been at the whim of this president or this court in the first place. Leader (Mitch) McConnell must also act immediately to bring the Dream And Promise Act of 2019 to the floor and protect DACA recipients."
"These determined, inspiring, hard-working young people belong in America and deserve the protections promised to them by the U.S. government.
"Today's victory is even more reason for Congress to permanently protect Dreamers from the threat of deportation. The House has voted. Now the Senate must too."
The House approved the bill on June 4, 2019, mostly along party lines. Only seven Republicans joined 230 Democrats — including all four Oregon Democrats — to support it. Rep. Greg Walden, the state's lone Republican, was among the 187 Republicans who voted no.
An estimated 700,000 are enrolled in the DACA program, which allows enrollees to obtain work permits that are renewable every two years. Oregon had around 12,000 when Trump took office in 2017.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, a Democrat from Beaverton who sits in the 1st District seat, said this in a statement:
"I have spoken with many Dreamers in NW Oregon, and with every conversation I am inspired by the resiliency and hope of these young adults. DACA allowed them to dream about their future, and to build lives, families, and careers — until the Trump administration placed them in limbo. Now they can dream again.
"Dreamers have grown up here, and they are an important part of our community and our economy. I will continue to fight for them and their dreams, as I did when I proudly voted in favor of H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act. I call on the Senate to pass the bill immediately to provide long-term protections and a path to citizenship."
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Portland in the 3rd District seat:
"Today's Supreme Court decision on DACA stated that Trump and his administration acted in bad faith, which is not much of a surprise. While this verdict is a good thing, we must stay focused on what is important - true and comprehensive immigration reform that respects human dignity and allows for a pathway to citizenship."
Rep. Kurt Schrader, a Democrat from Canby in the 5th District seat:
"Today's Supreme Court decision is a huge win for our Dreamers. These young folks contribute so much to our economy and communities and now they have certainty in their lives for the first time in years. I am celebrating alongside Dreamers and their families today. However, there is more to be done. I urge the Senate to take up the bipartisan American Dream and Promise Act that has already passed the House to permanently solidify their status."
In a 5-4 decision, the court found that Obama established the program legally, and Trump had the authority to do away with it, which Trump announced last September. But the court majority also found that the Trump administration did so in an "arbitrary and capricious" way without laying out any rationale that passed legal muster.
Congress has had various proposals to give legal protection to young immigrants since 2001.
"Now is the moment to match words with action and ensure that DREAMers never have to live through this legal limbo again," Merkley said. "Extending permanent protections to DREAMers is not just the right thing to do for them — it is the right thing to do for our entire nation, which benefits every day from their contributions."
NOTE: Adds comments from Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Kurt Schrader; adds description of two-year renewable work permits allowed under DACA.
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