WASHINGTON – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) predicted that a revived version of the DREAM Act providing legal status to more than 800,000 undocumented immigrants would pass in the GOP-led House of Representatives if it were put up for a vote.
“They enrich and strengthen our country. Their patriotism and bravery make America more American. Congress should recognize, embrace and celebrate these hard-working young men and women. Five years ago, President Obama gave hope to our DREAMers with DACA. President Trump is instilling fear by threatening the protections of DACA – that’s why we are so pleased to have this legislation,” Pelosi said during a press conference on Capitol Hill last Friday. “I believe if it were brought to the floor we would have bipartisan support, that Republicans would support it – any initiative to protect our DREAMers.”
The American Hope Act of 2017 would grant “conditional permanent resident status” to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally before Dec. 31, 2016, if they meet certain criteria. So far, the bill has 112 co-sponsors.
Pelosi said the House should pass the American Hope Act to protect undocumented DREAMers from deportation instead of spending money on an “immoral” barrier or “wall” at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Congress must keep our doors open to these young patriotic men and women who are American in every way,” Pelosi said. “We will fight every day to pass this bill.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said the bill would make it “easier” for undocumented students to access in-state tuition and student loans to pay for college. After qualifying for initial legal status under the legislation, applicants could apply for “full-fledged green cards” if they “stay out of trouble,” Gutierrez explained. The bill would apply to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before their 18th birthday.
“We’re not picking good immigrants versus bad immigrants or deserving immigrants versus undeserving; no, that’s the rhetoric of yesterday. We are working to defend those who live among us who should have a place in our society,” Gutierrez said.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said many of the DREAMers who came to the U.S. through “no fault of their own” do not know any other country.
“They are just as American as me, as you and as all of us,” he said. “It is shameful, sad and inappropriate that the Trump administration is going after even those the president himself ought to be able to say ‘you are welcome here.’”
Hoyer called for Congress to go further and pass comprehensive immigration reform that would allow DREAMers and their families to apply for legal status and become eligible for citizenship within five years.
“Immigrants are not a burden on this country. Indeed, they are one of the great strengths of this country. Let’s bring this bill to the floor,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer agreed with Pelosi that the bill would pass if House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) allowed the legislation to advance.
“I agree with Leader Pelosi. I’m the vote-counter. If this bill came to the floor it would pass with a majority of votes in the House of Representatives. In my opinion, it would pass with every Democratic vote and a significant number of Republican votes. I’ve talked to Republicans who say, ‘I’m for the DREAMers,’” he said. “I hope the speaker will allow this bill to come to the floor.”
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Trump should embrace the American Hope Act of 2017.
“I believe in redemption. I believe in the ability to turn around when you recognize you are going the wrong way and this is an opportunity to do just that, to help those amongst us who are struggling right now, who are worried, who are concerned, who are anxious as what their place will be here in our great country,” he said.
Crowley also said Trump could relate to the DREAMers because his mother emigrated to the U.S. from Scotland.
“She found the American Dream when she married a man from Queens, New York, and she saw the fulfillment of the American Dream when you became president,” he said. “That’s what we are asking for these young people today – that they have the same opportunity that your mother had, that my mother had to see the American Dream come true.”