On June 22, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet joined all his Democratic Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), calling on him to take up the American Dream and Promise Act (ADPA).
The legislation promises a path to citizenship young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, as well as immigrants facing dangerous conditions in their home countries and others.
This pro-immigration effort follows last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, rejecting President Trump’s repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shielded some “Dreamers” from deportation and allowed them to go to school and work.
“Today was a major win for DACA — but we still need a permanent legislative solution. Congress must act now,” the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy organization, tweeted after the ruling.
A Road to Citizenship
According to the National Immigration Forum, the ADPA would allow nearly 1.6 million eligible Dreamers, 700,000 DACA recipients, over 300,000 individuals with temporary protected status to remain in the U.S.
Locally, the Act would also give 39,700 Coloradans a path to citizenship, according to the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.
“The young people who are eligible for DACA, known as Dreamers, are American in every way except for their immigration status,” Bennet and the senators wrote. “Dreamers are contributing to our country as soldiers, nurses, teachers, and small business owners, and in many other ways.”
Bennet emphasizes that more than 200,000 DACA recipients are working in essential services during COVID-19. This includes an estimated 41,700 recipients working in the health care industry.
He and his colleagues strongly advocates for granting them citizenship.
“Congress must take action to ensure these essential workers are not deported to countries they barely remember even as our nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic,” states the letter.
Research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) supports the importance of immigrants’ contribution to the U.S. economy.
The immigrants “work at high rates and make up more than a third of the workforce in some industries,” according to the CBPP. Their geographic mobility increases local economies’ efficiency. They help support the aging native-born population and “increase the number of workers as compared to retirees.” Additionally, “children born to immigrant families are upwardly mobile, promising future benefits not only to their families but to the U.S. economy overall.”
George Borjas, a Harvard economist, stated in his research that immigration is good for the labor market.
“Part of this efficiency gain [due to immigration] accrues to natives, suggesting that existing estimates of the benefits from immigration may be ignoring a potentially important source of these benefits,” wrote Borjas.
Therefore, pro-immigration bills such as the Dream Act should have a positive effect on the overall economy, especially during the COVID-19 recession.
The History of the Bill
With a 237-187 vote, the ADPA, sponsored by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), passed the House with bipartisan support in 2019.
The Colorado representatives who co-sponsored the bill, Jason Crow, Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse, and Ed Perlmutter, are all Democrats.
The rest of Colorado’s representatives in the U.S. House, Ken Buck, Scott Tipton, and Doug Lamborn, all Republicans, did not vote for the bill.
Colorado’s Republican Senator Cory Gardner, who was once fiercely opposed immigration reform, also endorsed the Act.
“While today’s decision provides some clarity for the thousands of DACA recipients who call Colorado home, Congress still needs to reach a long-term solution for Dreamers in the United States—including a pathway to citizenship,” said Gardner in a statement. “That’s why I support immediate passage of the Dream Act and would also support the House-passed Dream and Promise Act. The Senate should act quickly to provide permanent relief for Dreamers.”
Grim Outlooks in the Senate
In the letter, Bennet and the Democratic senators criticize the Republican-ruled Senate’s alleged negligence over the nation’s immigration challenges.
In the 116th Congress, the Border Security and Immigration Subcommittee has held one hearing. The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted on one immigration bill – the Trump Administration’s anti-asylum bill – for which the Republican majority limited debate to one hour and did not allow any amendments, according to the letter.
Bennet also calls out McConnell in his letter for “not bringing a single immigration bill” to the floor of the Senate.
“It is not too late to change course. As Majority Leader, you can immediately schedule a vote in the Senate for the American Dream and Promise Act,” wrote Bennet and the senators. “It would be an American tragedy to deport DACA recipients who are saving lives in the midst of this pandemic.”
However, according to Inside Higher Ed, the Republican-led Senate is not expected to pass the bill.