Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (left) and Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin on Capitol Hill in May. (Carolyn Kaster / AP)

Two senators from opposite sides of the aisle are joining together to try to pass the Dream Act, a piece of legislation that would pave the way for illegal immigrants to gain U.S. citizenship. Sen. Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, are hoping for success this time around, as numerous versions of the legislation have been introduced in the past only to result in failure.

The Washington Post explains:

Hoping to fend off a legal challenge to a program that has spared nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation, two veteran senators made a long-shot appeal to President Trump on Thursday to support legislation that would put those immigrants and thousands of others on a path to U.S. citizenship.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) introduced “Dream Act” legislation that would grant permanent legal status to more than 1 million young people who arrived in the United States before they turned 18, passed security checks and met other criteria, including enrolling in college, joining the military or finding jobs. Immigrants must have lived in the United States for at least four years to apply.

“I am hoping we can find a pathway forward with President Trump,” Graham said at a news conference. “Wouldn’t it be ironic if the man who started his campaign talking about illegal immigration in a very tough way would be the man who started the country on a path to solving the problem?”

The Post notes that, according to the Migration Policy Institute, “1.8 million immigrants would qualify for conditional legal status under the proposed Dream Act, and a subset of 1.5 million probably would meet the criteria for green cards.”

Since President Trump took office, there has been renewed focus on both the Dream Act and President Obama’s immigration program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Durbin and Graham’s revival of the Dream Act comes on the same day that 20 state attorney generals released a letter to President Trump, imploring him “to maintain and defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which represents a success story for the more than three quarters of a million ‘Dreamers’ who are currently registered for it.”

The letter continues:

In addition to strengthening our states and country, DACA gives these bright, driven young people the peace of mind and stability to earn a college degree and to seek employment that matches their education and training. The protection afforded by DACA gives them dignity and the ability to fully pursue the American dream. For many, the United States is the only country they have ever known.

The consequences of rescinding DACA would be severe, not just for the hundreds of thousands of young people who rely on the program—and for their employers, schools, universities, and families—but for the country’s economy as a whole. For example, in addition to lost tax revenue, American businesses would face billions in turnover costs, as employers would lose qualified workers whom they have trained and in whom they have invested And as the chief law officers of our respective states, we strongly believe that DACA has made our communities safer, enabling these young people to report crimes to police without fear of deportation.

You have repeatedly expressed your support for Dreamers. Today, we join together to urge you not to capitulate to the demands Texas and nine other states set forth in their June 29, 2017, letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. That letter demands, under threat of litigation, that your Administration end the DACA initiative. The arguments set forth in that letter are wrong as a matter of law and policy.

Online outlet AZ Central writes that “dreamers” are reacting to Durbin and Graham’s effort with a mix of skepticism and hope:

Jessica Rubio, Phoenix coordinator of Mi Familia Vota, said she hopes history does not repeat itself with another Dream Act going down in defeat.

Rubio and her brother would have benefited from the failed 2010 legislation. Her brother was deported a year later.

“The introduction of this bill means hope to me for us to get a path to citizenship,” she said. “However, we know this hasn’t passed in the past. We’ve been waiting, and many families, while waiting, have been separated.”

She said many in the immigrant community are trying to figure out what the bill will mean for them. Meanwhile, her group will continue to pressure Congress to ensure DACA remains in place until new legislation is passed, she said.

Greisa Martinez, director of the youth-led immigration advocacy group United We Dream, explains how the new legislation differs from past iterations. First, she says that the newest bill is the “strongest version of the Dream Act” yet, and that “[r]ecipients of DACA would receive immediate protection under this bill.”

She notes, however, that there will still be a big uphill fight to turn the bill into law. “The fact remains that all three bodies of government remain controlled by Republican politicians. Donald Trump and far-right Republicans have already hinted that they will not support the Dream Act bill without further enforcement,” she writes. “While there is still much that is unknown about this bill, one thing remains certain: We have been able to win when enough of us take action together.”

Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, an advocate for immigration reform, welcomed the new legislation in a press release:

This is the right thing to do and the compassionate thing to do.

We are talking about people who have grown up in this country since they were young children. America is all they know. Right now, they exist in a kind of “limbo” without any legal status — though many of them are working hard, going to college and graduate school and law school, even serving in our armed forces.

In my experience, these are good kids who want to use their lives to make a difference in our country. These young men and women want to share the American dream. They exemplify what is best about the immigrant spirit that makes our country exceptional.

It is long past time for us to welcome these young immigrants as citizens and give them the opportunities they need to flourish and to help our country grow. A just and compassionate society cannot continue to punish innocent children for the mistakes of their parents.

So I applaud this new legislation and I pledge my support and the support of the Catholic community here in Los Angeles.

“To President Trump, you’re going to have to make a decision. The campaign is over,” Sen. Graham told the Post. “To the Republican Party: Who are we? What do we believe? … When they write the history of these times, I’m going to be with these kids.”

—Posted by Emma Niles

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