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U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A bipartisan DREAM Act is in the works… again

Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin worked in tandem to produce a revamped DREAM Act. Details are yet to be precise.

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File this under unexpected alliances in the year 2023. 

U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin came together on Friday, Feb. 10, and unveiled legislation to address immigration reform, specifically, a pathway for immigrant youth to obtain citizenship. 

The DREAM Act of 2023 will explore citizenship efforts for children brought to the country as noncitizens amid one of the most challenging periods of uncertainty for an issue tangled in the depths of the courts. 

Graham and Durbin serve as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee as chairman and ranking members, respectively, and have often been at odds over judicial confirmations. 

“Dreamers are teachers, nurses, and small business owners in our communities, but because DACA hangs by a thread in the courts, they live each day in fear of deportation,” Durbin wrote in a statement. 

“It is clear that only Congress can give them the stability they deserve and a path to lawful permanent residence,” the statement goes on. 

The pandemic has unearthed a difficult, prolonged-term for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly referred to as DACA. 

In 2021, District Judge Andrew Hanen dealt a legal blow to DREAMers when, in a Summer ruling, said DACA was unlawful and ordered the Biden administration to halt new applications. 

“[T]hese rulings do not resolve the issue of the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and others who have relied upon this program for almost a decade,” Hanen’s order reads. “That reliance has not diminished and may, in fact, have increased over time.”

A year later, 80,000 applicants — via legal representation — contested the ruling in New York but were disappointed to learn that District Judge Nicholas Garaufis upheld Hanen’s order to annul DACA. 

Both judges echoed the need for Congress to act and provide a permanent resolution to a system currently clogged by applications in processing, as well as new ones that continue to pour in. 

“While I continue to support relief for DREAMers, I hope my Democratic colleagues understand we must repair a broken border and address a tsunami of illegal immigration before that is remotely possible,” said Graham in a statement in stark contrast to his colleague.

It remains unclear if Graham seeks to provide catchall legislation to address the border while ostensibly relieving the DACA backlog, and he may have support on the Democratic front. 

Ahead of the 2022 lame-duck session, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey questioned whether immigration reform could be achieved through a piecemeal approach. 

“Not only are they in a bizarre and disturbing state of limbo, [DREAMers] are nowhere really, but you also don’t have the opportunity for them to get on a path to citizenship, and therefore be paying into systems like Social Security,” said Casey.

“One question going forward is, do you try to do it all in one bill?” continued Casey, who questioned if “you should try to take pieces of it and legislate on those? But it’s an area of unfinished business that every Democrat has to be concerned about.” 

The DREAM Act of 2023 would allow migrant children to earn permanent residence and eventually American citizenship if they meet the following criteria:

  • 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;
  • Have not committed a felony or other serious crimes and do not pose a threat to our country.

“The DREAMers represent a class of illegal immigrants that have much public support because they were minors brought here by their parents and America has become their home. To provide relief to this population, we must first convince Americans that the unending wave of illegal immigration will stop,” Graham’s statement read. 

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