New Bill Could Move California’s Immigrant Families Out of Limbo

by Angelica Salas | April 10, 2019 6:23 am

Credit: Isaias Guerrero

Immigrant families have something to celebrate: Introduction of the Dream and Promise Act of 2019.

This new legislation would create a roadmap to citizenship for more than one million undocumented people, including the more than 3 million people living in my home state of California who are living in limbo and lurching from court decision to court decision.

More immigrant families call California home than any other state in the nation. Many have built extraordinary lives. But the Trump administration’s attacks on programs put in place to protect undocumented youth, such as 21-year-old Jesica Garcia Garcia, have many families living on the edge.

Jesica was six years old when her family left Mexico to come to the U.S. She became a DACA recipient at 15 and was able to get her driver’s license when she turned 16. As she recently told policymakers, ”I had such a sense of belonging. For the first time, I had hope and could plan and dream of a future. But then Trump came and I’ve been fighting to be heard and recognized as the American I am. I am somebody. I am as American as the Star Spangled Banner with proud Oaxacan heritage.”

This bill provides a lifeline and anchor for her and so many others.

The Dream and Promise Act, introduced by U.S. Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Yvette Clark (D-NY), offers solutions for permanent protections for young people like Jesica without harmful enforcement policies. It would grant Dreamers conditional resident status for 10 years if they’ve been continuously in the country for four years before the bill’s enactment date; were at most 17 years-old when they entered the U.S.; abide by state and federal laws; graduate from high school; pass security and law enforcement background checks; and register for the Selective Service if required. The bill would also allow states to grant in-state tuition to undocumented students and allow Dreamers to access federal financial aid.

Voters are on our side with this. Polling shows that there is overwhelming support for undocumented youth. Last year’s midterm election led to the most progressive House of Representatives in history because people want a more inclusive country. Donald Trump’s divisiveness and hateful rhetoric inspired an entire electorate. Thankfully, Congress is now listening.

Under the provisions of the Dream and Promise Act, Californians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforcement Departure holders (DED) would be also put on a path toward citizenship.

They would receive lawful permanent resident status and cancel removal proceedings if they have been in the U.S. for a period of three years before the bill’s enactment and either had or were eligible for TPS on September 25, 2016, or had DED status as of September 28, 2016.

It’s time for the Trump nightmare to end. The introduction of this legislation is the first step. It’s time for the Senate and the President to have the political courage to do what is right and keep the promise made to immigrant youth and immigrant families. We have got a ways to go before our country is united, strong and free, but this bill gives hope to millions of immigrant families who have made this country their home.

I will not stop fighting until we have the protections and permanent legislative solutions we need.

Angelica Salas is the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) and co-chair of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM).

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