The immigrant community across the U.S. are living in fear of what the Trump presidency may hold, but one community that is most affected are the “DREAMers.” President Barack Obama’s created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (“DACA”) by Executive Action. More than 740,000 young people have been granted deportation reprieve and work permits under the program. These immigrants could now lose those protections, should Trump follow through on his promise to end President Obama’s immigration executive actions once he is sworn into office.
Promisingly, senators on both sides of the aisle are working to protect this sympathetic group of immigrants. Several bills were introduced at the end of this year’s Congressional session, but they will have to be reintroduced when the new Congress convenes in January in order to be debated and become law. The Senators proposing the bills wanted Congress to have their proposals to review over the legislative break, so that they can hit the ground running come January.
Most notably, Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have unveiled legislation to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation under President-elect Donald Trump. The bipartisan bill, called the Bridge Act, would effectively maintain the protections of DACA. This bill would grant three (3) more years of protection to the immigrants Obama protected and would replace his executive actions with a legislative one.
It’s not clear whether the bill will pass Congress or whether Trump would want to sign it if it did. The Senate is more likely to pass the bill, but there is hope that the House of Representatives is inclined to pass it as well. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had expressed sympathy for DACA recipients. Ryan said recently that they “should have something that balances the concerns of all parties involved and makes sure that we don’t pull the rug out from under people.” Even if it did pass, the Bridge Act would only protect a fraction of the unauthorized immigrants currently worrying about their futures under Trump.
There is no proposal to put any immigrants on a path to citizenship with this bill, or even grant them full legal status. Instead, they’re going to create a new immigration category called “provisional protected presence” (PPP), which would have the same privileges that beneficiaries of Obama’s 2012 DACA program have now.
PPP would be open to the same immigrants who already qualify for DACA: people born after June 1981 who came to the U.S. as minors and grew up here, have met certain educational requirements, and can pass a criminal background check. The immigrants who currently have DACA would just apply for PPP once their DACA grants neared their expiration date.
PPP would also be open to the several hundred thousand immigrants who are eligible for DACA but who haven’t applied for it under Obama and to people who aren’t currently eligible but might become so (for example, immigrants who turn 15 in February 2017).
The important information to know now is that neither of these bills are laws. They are just proposals. No one knows exactly how Congress and Trump will handle this very sensitive issue. If you qualify for DACA or are considering renewing your current DACA, please consult an immigration attorney prior to acting.
Brittany Thomas Faith joined GKH in 2012 as a member of GKH's Immigration practice group and focuses her practice on immigration including Deferred Action for DREAMers, family based immigration petitions, and employment based petitions. She received her B.A. from Pennsylvania State University in 2009, and her J.D. from the University of Tennessee in 2012 where she was Director of the College of Law's Pro Bono Program. Before coming to GKH, Ms. Thomas worked at several immigration non-profits and created the College of Law's U Visa Alternative Spring Break Program. She is committed to providing personalized, cost-effective immigration services for her clients around the world and across the U.S. Ms. Faith is very active in the legal community. She currently the President of the Chattanooga Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and Past President of the South East Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women. She serves on the boards of American Immigration Lawyers’ Association Midsouth Chapter, La Paz of Chattanooga, the Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, and Mid-South Immigration Advocates. She is also a member of the Foreign Ministry of Mexico’s PALE program, which provides legal advice to Mexican nationals residing in the U.S. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.