WATCH: Graham, Durbin say DACA decision gives Congress a 'compelling' reason to pass DREAM Act
Hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration would scale back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said they hoped to pass the latest version of the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who come to the U.S. as children, by the end of the month.
As part of its decision, the White House charged Congress with finding a solution for the DACA program, which has granted work permits and temporary relief from deportation to nearly 800,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. It has six months to pass legislation before the government stops granting DACA authorizations in March 2018.
Durbin has introduced various versions of the DREAM Act in the past 16 years, the Washington Post reported earlier this summer, but none of them have ever made it through both chambers of Congress. The senators reintroduced the latest version of the legislation in July.
According to statements from the senators, the bill would give legal permanent residence to young immigrants if they met the following conditions:
- Are longtime residents who came to the U.S. as children;
- Graduate from high school or obtain a GED;
- Pursue higher education, work lawfully for at least three years, or serve in the military;
- Pass security and law enforcement background checks and pay a reasonable application fee;
- Demonstrate proficiency in the English language and a knowledge of United States history; and
- Have not committed a felony or other serious crimes and do not pose a threat to our country.
"I think the president did country a service" by tossing the DACA decision back to Congress, Graham said at a Tuesday news briefing. Durbin said the rollback of DACA gives Congress a "timely, compelling reason" to act.
"We're not going to allow these kids to be victims of a broken political process," Graham added.
DACA now joins a growing list of items Congress must address this fall, including tax reform, Hurricane Harvey relief and the debate over the debt ceiling.
"Who knows what next month's topic du jour is going to be?" Durbin asked. "Let's move and do it now."
The senators declined to elaborate on their timeline for the legislation, though Durbin said tying an immigration program to border wall funding was a "nonstarter."
Graham added that the decision to kick DACA to Congress "requires Trump to get involved," and also that Graham's push for reform wouldn't end with the DREAM Act.
Instead, the DREAM Act "is a good down payment on what will eventually be a comprehensive solution to a broken immigration system," he said.