In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) reintroduced this bill as the 117th Congress’ version of the Dream Act — a bill that’s been introduced since 2001 to allow DREAMers to earn lawful permanent residence and American citizenship. In addition to Dreamers, this legislation also includes protections and a path to citizenship for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) beneficiaries. In a March 3, 2021 press release, Rep. Roybal-Allard said:
“During the years of the Trump Administration, the vicious targeting of our most vulnerable immigrant communities cultivated a climate of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear. For far too long, Dreamers and others have waited in limbo and lived with the fear of being deported from the only country they know as home. Dreamers were brought to this country as children. Many are unaware that they are undocumented until they apply for college, and many more have felt the need to keep their status a secret out of fear of deportation. That’s why I am grateful that President Biden has made immigration reform a priority and has preserved and fortified the DACA program in the U.S. Citizenship Act. I am also grateful that the president’s bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently live in the U.S., work hard, and contribute to our communities and nation. As we work to pass the president’s bold reform legislation, the reintroduction of H.R. 6 will help ensure Dreamers, TPS recipients, and DED beneficiaries are protected once and for all.”
Rep. Roybal-Allard further observed that this legislation would give 2.5 million DREAMers, TPS, and DED recipients a path to citizenship. This, she argued, “is the right thing to do” for these people who contribute to America’s economy, communities, and culture.
When she introduced this bill in the 116th Congress, Rep. Roybal-Allard said:
“As a co-author of the original Dream Act, and as the congresswoman for the district with the nation's largest Dreamer population, it is a privilege to lead today’s introduction of the Dream and Promise Act. I have seen firsthand the love that our Dreamers have for our country. They are our neighbors and colleagues who help strengthen our communities. They are students, scientists, researchers, and small business owners. Our Dream and Promise Act recognizes the contributions and patriotism of Dreamers, TPS recipients, and DED beneficiaries by helping them stay in America, pursue a path to citizenship, and keep strengthening our great country. I look forward to fighting for the passage of this pivotal legislation in the House, and making it the law of the land.”
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus supports this legislation, as Chairman Raul Ruiz (D-CA) explains:
“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus enthusiastically endorses the Dream and Promise Act and will work to shepherd its passage into law. Our country is at its strongest when we embrace our immigrant communities. Dreamers and TPS holders are professionals, entrepreneurs, job creators, and essential workers. They contribute to our economy and make America stronger. I’d like to thank CHC Members Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, as well as Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, for their leadership on this vital piece of legislation. The CHC is committed to providing permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship for the millions of Dreamers and TPS holders who call our country home.”
In the previous session of Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) expressed her support for this bill in remarks at a press event calling for its passage:
“The Dream, and now Dream and Promise Act, is urgent for our country… [W]hen immigrants come here with their hopes and dreams and aspirations, and determination to make the future better for their country, that optimism, that courage, they’re American traits and all of these immigrants make America more American… 89 percent of the public support the Dreamers and now the TPS and DED part of all of that… We are not passing this as a message. We are passing this as a measure to make a difference in peoples’ lives. Again, inside maneuvering can only go so far, outside mobilization gives us hope.”
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during the previous Congress, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), and House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA), the American Council on Education (ACE) and 37 other higher education associations wrote:
“The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 would allow some undocumented young people, who have already invested in our country and in whom the country has already invested, to earn lawful permanent residence in the United States and a path to citizenship. Brought to our country as children, many of these ;Dreamers’ do not even remember the country they came from and consider America to be their only home. Through no fault of their own, they are unable to pursue their dreams and contribute more fully to our nation… This bill is designed to focus on the special case of undocumented young people who came to this country because of the actions of their parents. They are educated, English- speaking, and aptly suited to contribute to our nation’s economy and security. They grew up with American values and traditions, making them American in every way except for their immigration status. These bright and talented young people often have to overcome significant barriers to graduate from high school, and we should do all we can to remove them from an unacceptable political and legal limbo. They work and pay taxes. They serve in the military and teach in our schools. And tens of thousands of Dreamers have or are striving to earn a college degree. limbo. Many of our institutions also have students and employees who have lived, worked, and studied while under TPS and DED, and we support the efforts to include protections for this population in this legislation. When the president revoked DACA in September 2017, he called on lawmakers to pass legislation to protect Dreamers. It is clear that in Congress, and across the nation, there is widespread and bipartisan support for doing just that. We strongly urge you to advance this important legislation.”
Human Rights Watch opposes this legislation in its current form, as it contains provisions that would disqualify some people from a path to citizenship based on juvenile offenses, which disproportionately affect people of color. Nicole Austin-Hillery, executive director of the US Program at Human Rights Watch, says:
“Congress should be focused on ensuring that all immigrant youth who call the US home no longer have to live in fear of an uncertain future. But the bill contains harsh and unnecessary provisions based on youth offenses that would amplify the racial injustices in the criminal legal system and make the bill less inclusive than what the Biden administration and Senator Lindsay Graham have proposed. Congress should stand firm against the racial injustice that has permeated the US juvenile justice and immigration systems by excising these provisions from an otherwise landmark bill. Congress should pass legislation that helps this country overcome racism, instead of including measures that increase the harm of unjust criminalization.”
Austin-Hillery continued, “If Congress does the right thing and removes the harmful juvenile-justice-related provisions from HR 6, it can pass legislation that would recognize the ties of young immigrants to their families and communities as well as take an important step toward racial justice.”
During the 116th Congress, Julia Gelatt, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), argued that this bill’s odds of passage were virtually zero. However, she acknowledged that it provided an opportunity for lawmakers to discuss an eventual compromise on immigration:
“The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019—the first bill introduced in the 116th Congress that would offer a path to legal status for DREAMers—is an expansive proposal, going beyond DREAM Act bills that have been pending in Congress in one form or another since 2001. While it has almost no chance of enactment, the legislation is intended to serve a pair of purposes: Set a Democratic marker for future immigration negotiations and represent a commitment that House Democrats will prioritize action on behalf of DREAMers and other unauthorized immigrants with longstanding U.S. ties.... While this bill is highly unlikely to be considered in the Republican-led Senate and even less likely to be signed into law, its debate and potential passage in the House could give lawmakers in both parties an opportunity to discuss what could represent the acceptable contours for a bipartisan compromise while the challenges to DACA and TPS termination wind their way through the courts, toward eventual Supreme Court consideration. Should the Supreme Court uphold the programs’ termination, ending protections for an estimated 1 million people, Congress will find itself under intense pressure to resolve the fates of these DACA and TPS recipients. This legislation represents an opening bid in what will surely be a long set of negotiations on these issues.”
All three of the programs in this bill — DACA, TPS, and DED — came under attack from President Trump during his presidency. He revoked DACA in September 2017, steadily terminated and failed to renew TPS protections for different countries, and initially ordered DED protections’ termination in 2019 (but extended the program through March 31, 2020 after public backlash).
This bill's two component bills — the Dream Act of 2019 and American Promise Act of 2019 — both passed the House Judiciary Committee in the 116th Congress. The Dream Act passed by a 19-10 vote and the American Promise Act passed by a 20-9 vote. After both bills' passage, Committee Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) called it "a historic day for so many" and "an incredible achievement for so many" for the committee to pass the American Promise Act. In a tweet, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) added that the pair of bills are "the most progressive bills ever passed in the House!"
This legislation has 158 Democratic cosponsors in the current session of Congress. In the previous Congressional session, this bill passed the House by a 237-187 vote with the support of 232 Democratic cosponsors, as well as the support of the Center for American Progress, Third Way, the American Council on Education (ACE), numerous higher education organizations, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU), the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), and the Center for Immigration Studies of New York.
Versions of the Dream Act have been supported by some in Congress for years, although to date, there hasn’t been sufficient support for it to pass both chambers. In 2007, it was killed by a bipartisan filibuster in the Senate; in 2010 it passed the House but stalled in the Senate; and in 2013, it passed as part of a broader immigration package that passed the Senate, but failed in the House. That led to the Obama administration enacting the controversial DACA program that President Trump has repeatedly tried to kill.
In the 116th Congress, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced competing legislation, the Dream Act (S.874), as an alternative to this bill. Their legislation was more similar in scope to previous versions of the Dream Act. Unlike this bill, the Graham-Durbin Dream Act would have only granted amnesty and lifetime work permits — not legal permanent resident status or a path to citizenship. It would also only have applied to DREAMers, not those with TPS or DED status.
Sens. Graham and Durbin have reintroduced their legislation in the current Congress, and Human Rights Watch prefers their legislation because it doesn’t block those with juvenile offenses from a path to citizenship. A coalition of over 100 companies and trade associations, including Facebook, General Motors, Target and Visa, has written a letter to Senate Leaders Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to pass this legislation.
Of Note: The National Immigration Forum estimates that this bill would allow nearly 700,000 DACA recipients, as well as another 1.6 million eligible DREAMers brought to the U.S. as children, to stay in the U.S. It’d also allow over 400,000 TPS holders and up to 3,600 individuals with DED to have the opportunity to remain in the U.S.
The Migration Policy Institute (MPI), which uses a methodology that assigns legal status in U.S. Census Bureau data, estimates that the numbers are slightly higher, at 2.3 million DREAMers who’d be eligible for CPR status and 429,000 TPS and DED holders who could apply immediately for LPR. All told, MPI estimates that this bill would put “slightly less than 2.7 million of the nation’s estimated 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants on a path to a green card.”
The Center for American Progress (CAP) reports that the average TPS recipient has lived in the U.S. for 22 years, with the vast majority of that time spent in lawful status; and the average DREAMer came to the U.S. at age eight.
Data indicates that the immigrants who’d benefit from this bill contribute to the U.S. economy. The USC Dornsife Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration estimates that in total, the immigrants who’d be affected by this bill and their households contribute $17.4 billion in federal taxes and $9.7 billion in state and local taxes and they hold $75.4 billion in spending power. New American Economy adds that in 2017, 93 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants and 94 percent of TPS beneficiaries were employed, and there were approximately 43,000 DACA-eligible entrepreneurs.
- Sponsoring Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) Press Release (117th Congress)
- Sponsoring Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) Press Release (116th Congress)
- Sponsoring Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) One Pager (117th Congress)
- CBO Cost Estimate (Dream Act)
- CBO Cost Estimate (American Promise Act)
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Remarks (In Favor, 116th Congress)
- Third Way (In Favor, 116th Congress)
- The American Council on Education (ACE) and Others Letter (In Favor, 116th Congress)
- New American Economy Press Release (In Favor, 116th Congress)
- Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Blog (In Favor, 116th Congress)
- East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) Official Statement (In Favor, 116th Congress)
- Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA Coalition) (In Favor, 116th Congress)
- Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) Press Release (In Favor, 116th Congress)
- Human Rights Watch (Opposed, 117th Congress)
- National Immigration Law Center (NILC) Short Summary (116th Congress)
- National Immigration Law Center (NILC) Section-by-Section Summary (116th Congress)
- National Immigration Forum Summary (116th Congress)
- Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
- Center for American Progress (CAP) Resources on H.R. 6 (116th Congress)
- USC Dornsife Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration
- Roll Call
- CNS News
- Vox (117th Congress)
- Countable (Similar Bill, 115th Congress)
Summary by Lorelei Yang & Eric Revell(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / vichinterlang)