Bipartisan senators unveil latest version of immigration reform bill protecting 'Dreamers'

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Demonstrators hold illuminated signs during a rally supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), or the Dream Act, outside the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2018.
Zach Gibson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Thursday introduced the latest iteration of the Dream Act, part of a new immigration reform push.

The proposed legislation, first introduced in 2001, would give some young, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children the opportunity to pursue a path toward American citizenship.

The reintroduction comes as President Joe Biden begins rolling out his immigration reform agenda and aims to reverse many of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

In 2012, President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program after the Dream Act failed to pass in Congress several times.

DACA protects the young undocumented immigrants who would be impacted by the Dream Act from deportation. The policy does not provide a path to citizenship.

Trump sought to end DACA during his presidency, but the Supreme Court blocked his administration’s attempt in June. On Jan. 20, Biden signed an executive order preserving DACA.

“It is clear that only legislation passed by Congress can give Dreamers the chance they deserve to earn their way to American citizenship,” Durbin said in a statement Thursday.

The Dream Act would grand some young, undocumented immigrants lawful permanent residence and eventually American citizenship if they meet certain criteria, including graduating from high school or earning a GED; pursuing higher education, working or serving in the military; and passing background checks.

The Dream Act of 2021 is identical to versions introduced by Durbin and Graham in the past two sessions of Congress, the senators say.

Graham indicated in a statement Thursday he would like to pass the Dream Act not as a standalone bill, but rather as apart of a comprehensive immigration package.

“I believe it will be a starting point for us to find bipartisan breakthroughs providing relief to the Dreamers and also repairing a broken immigration system,” Graham said.

For the last 15 years, Congress has failed to pass a comprehensive immigration bill.

About three-quarters of Americans support granting permanent legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, according to a June Pew Research Center survey.

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