Philly Mayor: 'Disgraceful' if Irish-Catholic Lawmakers Don't Vote for DREAM Act

mayor jim kenney speaks in philadelphia

WASHINGTON – Philadelphia Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney said “so what” if a “clean” DREAM Act gives DREAMers the opportunity to provide their undocumented immediate relatives with a path to U.S. citizenship.

Kenney supports the passage of a DREAM Act that would grant young adults who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children a path to citizenship if they meet certain qualifications.

President Trump wrote on his Twitter account that he would not sign any immigration legislation that would lead to more immigrants following.

"CHAIN MIGRATION cannot be allowed to be part of any legislation on Immigration!" he wrote in September.

Under existing immigration law, green card holders are able to apply for U.S. citizenship after living five years as permanent residents “without leaving the United States for trips of six months or longer.” According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. citizens who are 21 years of age or older are able to “petition” for their mother or father to live in the U.S. as green card holders. U.S. citizens at least 21 years of age can also petition for their brother or sister to live in the U.S. with green cards.

Kenney disagreed with objections to supporting a clean DREAM Act due to concerns about chain migration.

“My response would be, so what? I mean, we want people to be out of the shadows, we want people to be productive citizens, we want people to come out and pay taxes and get above board,” said Kenney when PJM asked about opposition to the DREAM Act on a conference call organized by Make the Road Pennsylvania on Monday.

Kenney rejected GOP efforts to crack down on illegal immigration at the local level with anti-sanctuary city policies.

“All these policies do is drive people underground and make our cities less safe because people won’t call the police, won’t be witnesses, if they are victims of crime they won’t report it. So you know what? When we got off the boat in the 1840s, Ellis Island hadn’t been opened yet, we were all undocumented and they told us to go home. And two churches in Philadelphia were burned to the ground in 1844 because they were anti-Catholics,” Kenney said.

“So, I’m obviously very liberal on immigration. There are ways to vet people to make sure we are not getting crazy people or people who are criminals in their native country, but other than that there should be a path to citizenship for everybody,” he added.

Kenney said Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) should vote for a clean DREAM Act as Irish-Americans. When President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was rescinded in September, Toomey said, "Congress needs to pass legislation to accommodate these young people while simultaneously addressing the other challenges within our deeply broken immigration system, including stopping dangerous sanctuary cities, strengthening border security, and cracking down on companies that hire people who are here illegally."

“Pat Meehan, Senator Toomey and myself are all Irish-Americans of Irish descent and were all raised Catholic,” Kenney said. “In order for us to uphold our religious beliefs and honor our immigrant past, whose relatives and ancestors went through the very same thing that many of our current immigrants are going through – I think it’s disgraceful that they either forgot their history or ignore their history and ignore their religious beliefs.”

A beneficiary of the DACA program joined Kenney on the conference call.

“I am just as American as my neighbor. I wasn’t born a U.S. citizen, but let us create a way of earning it that can both benefit the U.S. and all the DREAMers across this country,” said Zion Dirgantara, a Philadelphia DACA beneficiary who serves in the U.S. military.