Columns

Durbin, Graham Team Up to Block Deportation of DACA Beneficiaries

Community activists rally during an event on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability in Los Angeles on Feb. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he has teamed up with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to find a legislative way to keep in the country those legalized by President Obama’s executive order on immigrants brought illegally to America as children.

Asked on NBC in August 2015 about Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and efforts to extend legalization to their parents, President-elect Trump said “we have to make a whole new set of standards.”

“We’re going to keep the families together. We have to keep the families together,” he said. “…They have to go. We will work with them. They have to go… we either have a country or we don’t have a country. Either we have a country or not.”

The Migration Policy Institute says 65 percent of the eligible population of 1,932,000 have applied under the DACA program. The majority are originally from Mexico, but populations from other Latin American countries as well as Korea, China, India, Philippines, Vietnam and Jamaica are also represented.

Durbin spent the week sharing a story each day on the floor of the Senate of DACA beneficiaries who could be deported after Trump takes office.

“My concern and the concern shared by millions across America is what is going to happen to these young kids – 744,000 of them who are currently in college, in high school, currently in professional schools, medical schools, and law schools,” he said Thursday. “They’re doing amazing things with their lives and yet things can happen immediately that change their status.”

“I’ve talked to a number of my colleagues on the floor, on both sides of the aisle about this, and there are strong emotions in favor of helping these young people.”

Durbin noted that “one of the leaders on this has been my friend and ally on some immigration issues – and that’s Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.”

“He and I talked about introducing legislation that would give a temporary stay so that these young people could be protected until Congress does its work and comes up with an immigration bill that addresses this issue and many more,” he said. “Senator Graham and I discussed it again this morning, and we hope to even have this bill ready before we leave next week, a bipartisan effort to say to the new president, ‘give these young people a fighting chance. At least protect them until we’ve had a chance to act on the larger immigration issues before us.’ I hope that colleagues on both sides will join us.”

Graham told Politico on Wednesday that “the worst outcome is to repeal the legal status that these kids have.”

“Whether you agree with them having it or not, they’ve come out of the shadows,” he said. Graham said the bill is “going to be basically, if you have legal status, you’ll continue legal status — I think it would pass overwhelmingly.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a Trump opponent during campaign season, is expected to back the bill.

Graham has opposed the DREAM Act, which was the unsuccessful congressional precursor to DACA. “Illegal immigration is a nightmare for America.  Giving a pathway to citizenship without first securing the border is an inducement to encourage more illegal immigration.  This is nothing more than a political game by the Democrats to try and drive a wedge between the Hispanic community and Republicans,” Graham said in December 2010.