In a year-end bipartisan near miracle, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have come together to propose a bill to provide protection for young immigrants who have been granted or are eligible for protection from deportation under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. DACA is an executive order implemented by the Obama administration. Because it is an executive order, and not a bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, it could easily be rolled back by the incoming administration. That is why bipartisan congressional action is so essential for young immigrants who want to continue to contribute to America, the only home they have ever known.
Senator Durbin and Graham’s bill, Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy Act or the BRIDGE Act, will be introduced in the new year in the new Congress to protect immigrants brought to the United States as children without documentation. These are our children; they played by the rules attending school with our children, graduating from our high schools. Mirroring DACA, BRIDGE applicants would be required to pay a fee, undergo criminal background checks, and be determined not to pose a security threat.
These young people did nothing wrong, and have contributed to our communities. They want to continue their education and legally work in the United States. They need Congress and the American people to make it possible.
We applaud Senator Durbin and Senator Graham for working together to protect those young people who have or are eligible for DACA. Let this year-end bipartisan act be a harbinger of a new year and a new Congress brimming with bipartisan bills that bring Americans together. Only then will we be able to tackle the underlying issue: create a bipartisan bridge to an immigration system that works for the United States with a path out of the shadows for undocumented immigrants who want to get in a line for legal immigration status.
Heather Stewart is counsel and director of immigration policy for NAFSA: Association of International Educators.