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House Votes to Give ‘Dreamers’ a Path to Citizenship

5 Jun

WASHINGTON — The Democrat-led House passed legislation on Tuesday to grant a path to citizenship to about 2.5 million immigrants whose legal protections President Trump has moved to end, advancing a measure that highlights the bitter partisan differences over immigration.

The bill, which passed 237 to 187, with seven Republicans voting yes, would create a new legal pathway for young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, known as Dreamers, and for those with Temporary Protected Status, granted to immigrants whose countries are ravaged by natural disaster or violence. It is almost certain to die in the Republican-led Senate, where there is no appetite to challenge Mr. Trump on his signature issue and the majority regards it as amnesty for people who have broken the law.

The White House said on Monday that Mr. Trump would veto the measure. But as the vote tally hit 218, representing a majority for passage, scores of Dreamers seated in the House gallery rose to their feet and cheered loudly, chanting, “Si se puede!” and then the English translation, “Yes we can!” It was evidence of the national grass-roots movement they have built over more than a decade to push for permanent legal status.

The Democrats’ immigration measure was notable both for what it did and for what it did not do. It was a grant of legal status for a narrow group of immigrants, not a comprehensive measure to overhaul what lawmakers in both parties concede is a badly broken immigration system and to deal with the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Such a measure passed the Senate in 2013 only to die in a Republican-controlled House.


Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats wanted the narrower measure to become law, but she conceded that it was drafted as a statement of principle and a “bridge to understanding why we need comprehensive immigration reform for an immigration system that embraces the contributions of our newcomers.”

It was the latest example of Democrats’ drive to use their power in the House to challenge Mr. Trump and dramatize their disagreements with Republicans, sending a message to voters about their contrasting values and priorities. As Mr. Trump continues to press for a wall on the southwestern border, stricter asylum standards and more enforcement — and even tariffs to pressure Mexico to block migrants — Democrats spent Tuesday advocating instead for removing the threat of deportation for two of the most sympathetic groups of immigrants.

“Because of Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, millions of immigrants across the country live in constant fear that they will face deportation and potentially be separated from their families,” Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, Democrat of New York, said as she argued in favor of the bill. “Let’s send a strong message to the world that we recognize that immigrants make America America.”

Republicans denounced the bill as a grant of amnesty that would provide an incentive for more illegal immigration at a time when the border with Mexico is already overrun by migrants.

“This bill does nothing to address our crisis,” said Representative Mike D. Rogers, Republican of Alabama. “Instead, it tells an entire generation of illegal immigrants that breaking our laws is rewarded.”

Democrats, Mr. Rogers added, “would rather reward illegal immigrants than secure our borders, enforce our laws and fix this crisis.”

In fact, passage of the legislation follows years of haggling among Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans and Democrats over a plan that would have done both, pairing legal status for the Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status holders with money for a border wall. The negotiations broke down repeatedly, even amid signs that such a measure would have had enough bipartisan support to pass.

Democrats now say they are opposed to any money for a wall. Even as they debated the so-called Dream and Promise Act on Tuesday, they unveiled a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security that added no new money for border barriers or security measures. Republicans likewise were nearly unanimous in their opposition to protecting Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status holders, arguing that stricter immigration policies must first be imposed.

“This is frankly another green light to those who want to come here seeking freedom from the place that they currently are — which I sympathize with,” said Representative Doug Collins, Republican of Georgia. “But either we have a way to get into our country legally, or we don’t.”

The partisan fight over the bill obscured the complicated political crosscurrents that have long frustrated attempts to forge consensus in Congress on immigration issues. It was that dynamic that prompted President Barack Obama to go around Congress in 2012 and create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which provided renewable legal status and work permits to about 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

Mr. Trump moved in 2017 to rescind DACA, but has been blocked by federal courts as part of a legal challenge that has reached the Supreme Court. The House bill would allow DACA recipients, as well as another 1.6 million immigrants who are eligible for the program but not enrolled, to apply for permanent legal status.

The Trump administration has also terminated or failed to renew Temporary Protected Status for several countries, including El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, in some cases leading to legal challenges that are still unresolved. The bill approved on Tuesday would allow the roughly 300,000 status holders currently living in the United States, along with as many as 3,600 Liberians who have a similar status known as Deferred Enforced Departure, to earn legal permanent residency and eventual citizenship.

Article Source: The New York Times