Law360: Dems Push For DACA Fix By Year’s End

By Rae Ann Varona

Democratic lawmakers expressed urgency Wednesday in getting Republicans on board to pass a permanent solution before January for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors — so-called Dreamers — saying inertia could spell deportation for thousands now protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

With Republicans poised to take control of the House, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said reaching an agreement on a bipartisan solution for those who were brought to the U.S. as children and lack the authorization to remain in the country — like the DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors — is a “high priority.” Come January, with the new congressional term, doing so will be increasingly difficult, he said.

“That’s the grim reality, the political reality of the moment,” Durbin said in a press conference.

Durbin, who authored the DREAM Act more than two decades ago, said 10 Senate Republicans are needed to support the proposal, and that bipartisan support isn’t impossible. He pointed to Arizona’s passing of a referendum giving in-state tuition at state universities and colleges to noncitizens, despite close election calls for the state’s senator and governor.

“What that tells me is that Arizona reflects America today when it comes to the DREAM Act,” Durbin said.

He also said he’s had Republican senators approach him in the last few days who made clear they were interested in engaging in conversations who were not “traditional” Republican senators but were “new faces.”

“Finding 10 is difficult, and I don’t want to suggest it isn’t. But we have some opportunity,” he said.

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., emphasized the importance of permanent protections for California’s Dreamers.

“Dreamers deserve nothing less,” Padilla said. “It is not right that they live year after year in limbo, in fear of deportation after all they’ve done to make our nation greater.”

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, California has the most beneficiaries of the DACA program, which offered temporary relief from deportation and the ability to work and study. As of March, the state had 174,070 DACA recipients.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said 11,000 DACA recipients and thousands of more unauthorized noncitizens reside in her state and are still fighting to protect their status.

In calling for bipartisan support, she said she was willing to work on legislation that included protections for DACA recipients and also addressed border security, something legal experts have said would realistically have to be included to get bipartisan support.

“We can do both,” Cortez Masto said. “And I am willing to work with anyone to make sure those reforms happen.”

Adding to the calls were DACA recipients, including Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director at United We Dream, who recalled lobbying for the DREAM Act in 2010, when it fell five votes short of passing in the Senate, and continuing to push for protections until the Obama administration enacted DACA.

Now over a decade later, however, the program was at the “precipice of demise,” she said.

Another DACA recipient, Diego Corzo, said the difference the DACA program made in his life was clear, saying that at 22, before DACA was enacted, he couldn’t work or drive. But at 23 years old, under DACA, he was able to get a job as a software developer with General Motors and buy his own home.

Corzo, now 32, said he owns several more rental properties and multiple million-dollar businesses.

“I’ve achieved all of this because my dreams are bigger than my lack of papers,” he said. “But I still believe we haven’t achieved our full potential.”

More than 800,000 unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children have found deportation relief and the ability to legally work in the country through the DACA program since its inception in 2012.

Last month, the Fifth Circuit affirmed a 2021 ruling by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen to vacate the program for not having sought public notice and comment, but it asked him to review the Biden administration’s recent final rule, which is similar to the vacated program but sought public input. Judge Hanen later said he would temporarily go on allowing current DACA recipients to continue renewing their protection against deportation.

The program is widely expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court for the third time, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that “hanging by a bare thread from court decision to court decision is no way for anyone to have to live.”

The calls for bipartisan support come after nearly 90 Democratic lawmakers, including Padilla and Cortez Masto, urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to remove barriers that prevent DACA recipients from accessing affordable health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act.

Current regulations, they said, excluded a significant number of young and healthy adults they said were the “exact type” of participants Congress encouraged to purchase health insurance under the ACA.

They said barriers to health coverage are forcing many of them and their families to forgo health care, including preventive health services and life-saving treatments, they said. Barriers further widen health inequities faced by immigrant communities, particularly those of color, they said.

“Moreover, the current regulation leads to worse health outcomes for DACA recipients and their families by foreclosing access to health care, including unsubsidized purchases on ACA health insurance marketplace,” the lawmakers wrote Monday. “We strongly encourage HHS to honor our country’s promise of full integration and support of DACA recipients, including access to affordable health care through the ACA by rescinding this regulation.”

Read the full article here.