Padilla: It’s Past Time for Congress to Act, We Must Protect Dreamers

Nine years after DACA program was established, Padilla urges action to permanently protect Dreamers from deportation

WATCH: Sen. Padilla’s Opening Remarks

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the 9th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, co-chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the urgent need to pass the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021.

During the hearing, Padilla called out the continued failure of Congress to act to protect Dreamers and highlighted the urgent need for the Senate to provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients. California is home to more than 250,000 DACA and TPS recipients, the most of any state in the nation.

Padilla began his questioning by asking the former Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Leon Rodriguez, about the broad consensus among Americans in support of the DACA program, which has enabled it to remain in place even in the face of relentless litigation against the policy. Padilla went on to question Rony Ponthieux, a registered nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital and TPS holder from Haiti. He highlighted that while Mr. Ponthieux’s immigration status as a TPS holder is in limbo, his son is bravely serving our country in the U.S. Army.

Padilla concluded by criticizing Republican committee members’ attempts to distract from the need to provide relief to DACA recipients by perpetuating false claims about migration at the southern border. 

Senator Padilla has been a vocal advocate for Dreamers and TPS holders and recently joined Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in calling on the Biden administration to address the extreme backlog for DACA applicants and reduce wait times for DACA renewals. 

WATCH: View Video of Padilla’s Opening Remarks/ Download Video of Padilla’s Opening Remarks

WATCH: View Video of Padilla’s Questioning / Download Video of Padilla’s Questioning

WATCH: View Video of Padilla’s Closing RemarksDownload Video of Padilla’s Closing Remarks

Key Opening Remarks Excerpts:

  • As the proud son of immigrants, I am honored to participate in this hearing, and to help highlight the contributions that Dreamers and TPS recipients, contributions that they are making to this country each and every day.
  • For four years, Dreamers successfully opposed efforts to destroy the DACA program. […] But the past nine years also represents a failure on the part of this body.
  • It’s no surprise that protecting Dreamers is a bipartisan issue in Congress. In fact, overwhelming majorities of the American people—yes, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—support a path to legalization for undocumented young people. 
  • Almost 30,000 DACA recipients and more than 11,000 TPS holders are healthcare workers, essential, frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • And most DACA and TPS holders only know the United States as their home. So, colleagues, it is past time for Congress to recognize that reality into law.
  • Creating a path to citizenship for Dreamers and TPS holders isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s also key to strengthening our economy. A new report from UC Davis and the Center for American Progress finds that the American Dream and Promise Act would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and raise wages for all American workers.

Key Questioning Excerpts:

  • PADILLA: When the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or the DACA program was first announced by president Obama nine years ago today, he said the program was not a path to citizenship or a permanent fix, it was a temporary stop gap, but would provide some relief and hope to talented young people while Congress would work on the permanent fix. […] Why do you think the program has largely remained intact over the last nine years, particularly in light of the legal challenges? 

RODRIGUEZ: It is a population that is viewed as blameless. They came here by whatever different means as children. And therefore, there is actually a broad consensus among the American people and among American leadership that this is a population that deserved that relief.

Key Concluding Remarks Excerpts:

  • The questions, concerns raised about people approaching the Southern border today, tonight, or in recent months, is a population very much separate and apart from Dreamers, TPS holders, and other long-term immigrant residents of this country who have been living here, have been working here, have been contributing to the economic success and resilience of the country. 
  • I also want to make a quick comment about one of the questions or concerns – if I’m generous here – about how “the numbers [of Dreamers] are growing.” […] The reason the numbers changed is because that year has changed because nine years later, Congress still hasn’t done its job. 

For additional information on the hearing, click here.


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