WASHINGTON, DC — Five months after the Trump Administration created an economic and humanitarian crisis by terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Senate Majority Leader is finally letting the Senate move forward with an immigration debate this week.
U.S. Senator Jack Reed is urging his Senate colleagues to come together and pass the bipartisan DREAM Act, which would allow young immigrants who have worked, studied, and served in the Armed Forces to earn lawful permanent residence and provide them with a path to American citizenship. These young people, known as Dreamers, were brought here through no fault of their own, have lived in America since they were children, built their lives here, and are American in every way except for their immigration status.
“It is time for Congress to do what is best for our country and pass the DREAM Act. I’m not asking Republicans to act out of the goodness of their hearts, I am asking them to act in their own economic self-interest and that means harnessing the power of young immigrants to help grow our economy. When President Trump terminated the DACA program, he not only jeopardized the future of hardworking Dreamers who are excelling in school, the workplace, and their communities, but he also created economic uncertainty for employers and municipalities all across the nation as well,” stated Reed, who cited a 2016 Center for American Progress study, which estimates that permanently ending DACA would reduce the nation’s GDP by $433.4 billion over a decade.
Reed noted he has met with several very impressive Dreamers living in Rhode Island, including one young woman studying at Brown University who needs DACA to ensure she can stay here to attend medical school and help fill the shortage of doctors in America.
“I urge my colleagues who don’t know any Dreamers firsthand to listen to the people they represent: Americans overwhelmingly support finding a solution for Dreamers that protects them from deportation and provides a pathway to citizenship for those who work hard and play by the rules. I believe that a bipartisan majority of my colleagues want the same thing. The question before us is whether the partisanship and raw feelings surrounding this debate will prevent a solution to this crisis from becoming law. So I urge my colleagues: let us forge the bipartisan agreement that the American people want and the Dreamers deserve, let us end this crisis. Then, after this bipartisan show of good faith, let us again take up the kind of comprehensive immigration reform that many of us in this body have already voted to pass so we can fix our broken immigration system once and for all,” continued Reed.
In order to pass the U.S. Senate, a fix to the DACA crisis created by President Trump will require 60 votes. This means that if all 49 Democratic and Independent Senators support immigration reform, it still needs at least 11 Republican Senators to help advance the bill. Reed noted that Democrats have made compromises to pair the DREAM Act, which would extend protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. when they were children, with smart targeted investments in border security and other reasonable compromises that reflect Democrats’ and Republicans’ shared interest in securing our nation’s borders.
Reed stated that he does not believe that solving the DACA crisis, which President Trump created, should come at the cost of radically restructuring legal immigration. According to the conservative Cato Institute, President Trump’s immigration proposals would cut legal immigration by about half, slashing our projected economic growth rate by 12.5%, and lowering future economic growth projections due to the reduction in the size of the American workforce. And, just as our nation faces a skyrocketing deficit due to unsound policies like the Republican tax plan, the National Academy of Sciences estimates that immigrants on average contribute over $92,000 more than they receive in government benefits over the course of their lives, and losing these American workers would only further shrink revenue that could help balance the budget.
“Both sides of the aisle agree that border security is of critical importance to our nation. I have voted to increase the already tough vetting of visa applicants, heighten security on international travel, and to increase support for homeland security and border control by billions and billions of dollars. In Fiscal Year 2000, there were 8,619 Border Patrol agents on the southwest border; today there are currently just shy of 20,000. The Obama Administration alone added more than 3,000 Border Patrol agents on our southern border, doubled the amount of fencing, and added technological systems including aerial and ground surveillance systems,” Reed noted.
As a result, unlawful immigration began lessening under President Obama and, today, fewer people are entering the country illegally across the U.S-Mexico border than in the past fifty years.
“I believe in a strong border that continues to adapt the best technologies and tactics to keep our nation safe,” concluded Reed. “I, along with many of my colleagues, have taken the tough votes to strengthen our border and ensure immigrants play by the rules. I have voted for the DREAM Act, and for comprehensive immigration reform that passed in this body twice. I know that we can address this crisis if we choose to, but I also know that the only true path forward is real bipartisan compromise, not posturing or legislative gamesmanship. I urge my colleagues to support compromise legislation to address the specific crisis before us, and, when we have done that, to begin earnest discussions on bipartisan and comprehensive immigration reform.”
The Senate is scheduled to debate immigration legislation all this week.