WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — On the nine-year anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows people who entered the United States illegally as children to stay, Democrats in Congress say it’s time for the federal government to create a permanent path to citizenship.
“There’s no excuse for inaction,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said during a Tuesday hearing on the matter. “It’s time to allow these individuals, these future Americans, to finally become American citizens “
The U.S. Supreme Court last year upheld DACA, but legal challenges remain and that means those who rely on it to stay in the U.S. — a group referred to as “Dreamers” — are still in limbo.
“Day after day, I provide critical care to save American lives on the front lines of the pandemic even as my own future in this country remains uncertain,” Dr. Manuel Bernal Mejia of Chicago, who was brought to the U.S. as a child, told lawmakers.
He said Congress must act to protect people like him.
“America is our home,” he said.
While some Republicans say they support helping Dreamers, they argue current proposals from Democrats are too broad and would encourage more illegal immigration.
“Creating new loopholes for illegal immigrants who have criminal records, sending the message that more people ought to come here illegally,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said during the Tuesday hearing.
He and fellow Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa say President Joe Biden’s administration’s first priority should be getting a handle on the crush of migrants at the southern border.
Also speaking in opposition to DACA expansions was Michelle Root of Iowa, whose daughter was killed by a drunken driver who was in the country illegally.
“We cannot forget that our laws are intended to keep us safe,” Root said. “This legislation does not do that. It rewards the illegal behavior that my daughter’s killer carried out.”
The Biden administration says it will keep pushing Congress to pass a solution.