The same day that President Donald Trump “rescinded” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) held a joint press conference in which they reintroduced legislation that would see Congress tackling many of the issues that DACA comprises.
“What Senator Graham and I want to deliver is the message today, is that we need to do our job right here in the United States Senate,” Durbin said. “We need to pass, in this month of September, a DREAM Act, a permanent law in this country, that says that these young people will have their chance to become part of America's future.”
The DREAM — Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors — Act has been circling Congress for more than a decade, having first been introduced by Durbin and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in 2001. The legislation has failed to pass each time it has been introduced.
Durbin then took a moment to speak directly to the DREAMers, saying, “Do not give up hope.”
“If you are one of those DREAMers,” Durbin continued, “one of those protected by DACA, you need to be part of America in its future. We made a promise to you that if you gave this information to our government about you and your family, it wouldn't be used against you. I don't want that to ever happen.”
Durbin then turned over the podium to Graham, who said right out of the gate, speaking to the DACA participants, “you have done nothing wrong.”
“You've demonstrated your ability to be beneficial to the country now and in the future,” Graham said. "The only thing that stands between you and certainty in your life is the Congress. That cannot be that reassuring.
“Congress is going to have to up its game,” Graham opined.
The senator from South Carolina then went on to admit that he felt that President Barack Obama's decision to enact DACA in the first place was an “unconstitutional overreach” but that “he had a dilemma on his hands.”
“I think the president did the country a service by going back to constitutional order in a way that allows a six-month opportunity for the Congress to take care of these kids,” Graham said of Trump's actions earlier Tuesday.
Graham then took to making a personal metaphor, saying that “they are no more connected to their home country than I am to Scotland, where my grandfather came from, so the reality of the situation is that these children basically have no place to go other than America.”
Continuing on, Graham said that there was “good news for America.”
“You should want them to stay. They're great kids. They're working. They're productive. This is a win-win,” he said. “If there was ever a win-win in modern times, it would be the DREAM Act.”
Speaking to his Republican colleagues, Graham said he would respect their decision to vote against the DREAM Act but that he hoped there would be a “healthy debate” leading up to the vote.
“Make the case that these kids don't belong here, because I'm going to make the case they do,” Graham said.
Durbin and Graham's DREAM Act would provide lawful permanent residence and eventually citizenship to young persons who fulfilled the following requirements:
- 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 a proficiency in the English language and a knowledge of United States history; and
- Have not committed a felony or other serious crime, and do not pose a threat to our country.
“We can allow a generation of young immigrants with great potential and ambition to contribute more fully to our society, economy, and national security,” a handout before the press conference said, “or we can lose them to foreign competitors.”