President-elect Trump has repeatedly vowed to revoke President Obama’s executive orders including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham are working to ensure the future of hundreds of thousands of young people that DACA currently protects by re-introducing the BRIDGE (Bar Removal of Immigrants Who Dream and Grow the Economy) Act on January 12th. While executive orders can be easily overturned by a new president, the passing of the BRIDGE Act would make the policy law, which would require action from both Congress and the Senate to remove or alter.
This bipartisan bill, initially introduced on December 9th, 2016, would allow those with DACA to continue working and driving, and would include DREAMers who are not old enough to be protected under current DACA. The status would last for three years, after which the act would either be extended or Congress would need to pass a more comprehensive solution. The legislation has similar eligibility requirements and would also include stronger confidentiality protections, such as prohibiting the use of personal information for deportation purposes, so that parents of DACA beneficiaries would not be tracked down by their address or phone number. The BRIDGE act also places its beneficiaries under the designation of “provisional protected presence.” To enroll, a person would need to register with the government, pay a fee and pass background checks. The bill’s co-sponsors include Senators Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, and Kamala Harris. Congressmen Mike Coffman and Luis V. Gutiérrez introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives on January 12th, 2017, the same day the bill was reintroduced in the Senate.
On the same day as the BRIDGE Act was initially introduced, Senator Jeff Flake introduced SAFE (Securing Active and Fair Enforcement) Act, which may seem similar in that it would also protect DACA beneficiaries, but would damage the immigrant community irreparably. It would expedite the deportation of “criminal” immigrants, though no legal conviction is needed to do so. The SAFE Act would also allow the government to use the DREAMers and DACA information to detain family members not covered under these designations. There is also a 90-day mandatory completion requirement for removal proceedings, meaning that the Immigration Courts would not necessarily have time to comply with due process or allow the defendant to hire legal counsel to defend themselves. The Immigration Courts would be further undermined by this piece of legislation because it would designate up to 100 temporary immigration judges to get through these rushed cases, compromising the standards of the judicial system. In short, while it offers some protection, it places thousands of immigrants in danger of losing their families.
Senator Durbin released this statement on his website advocating for the importance of DREAMers in the United States: “DREAMers have so much to contribute to this country, their country, and they’ve demonstrated their commitment to the United States in countless ways – by opening businesses, becoming doctors and teachers, and serving in uniform. That’s why I’m proud to work with Senator Graham to ensure that DREAMers are protected from deportation until we are able to provide a permanent fix for our broken immigration system. These kids are Americans at heart and deserve to remain in the only country they call home.”
While the BRIDGE Act is an important start to protecting over 750,000 immigrants currently protected under DACA, it will only be one step towards assuring the protection of everyone who calls the United States their home.