Durbin Calls On Senate To Pass Immigration Reform Legislation Before The End Of The Year

Durbin: An average of 1,000 DACA recipients would lose their jobs each week if DACA is overturned

WASHINGTON  U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and author of the Dream Act, spoke on the Senate floor today about the reported immigration deal between Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), as well as the urgency of passing the Dream Act this Congress to protect Dreamers from deportation.  The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has allowed hundreds of thousands of Dreamers to thrive in the United States.  They are protected from deportation for now, but due to lawsuits by extreme MAGA Republicans, their fate is in the hands of a Republican-appointed judge who has repeatedly found DACA and other programs like it unlawful. 

“It was reported that two of our colleagues, Senators Sinema and Tillis, are working together on a potential immigration package.  And though I want to know more details about what they are considering, I want to thank them for showing this kind of initiative on this important issue.  I believe we must pass immigration reform legislation before the end of the year.  And the members of this Senate shouldn’t leave for home and for the holidays until we take a vote to reform our broken immigration system,” Durbin said.

During his speech on the floor, Durbin shared the story of one Dreamer, Eddie Rivera.  He’s a freshman at Dominican University in Illinois where he’s studying to become a nurse.  Eddie’s story is the 131st Dreamer story Durbin has told on the Senate floor.  Eddie’s family is originally from Honduras where his mom was a lawyer.  She received death threats because of her work—and it was out of fear for Eddie’s life that she sought refuge in America.

“Eddie’s family moved a lot when he was growing up.  They struggled to get by, but they came to rely on one another for support.  When his grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, Eddie and his mom became her full time caregivers.  He would sit by his grandmother’s side day by day feeding her, praying for her, holding her hand.  Sadly his grandmother passed away in December of 2019,” Durbin said.  “But it was this personal life experience, caring for his grandmother, that inspired Eddie to pursue a career in medicine and nursing.  So when the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, he answered the call for duty.  He was hired to assist the nursing staff in a COVID unit of a hospital in North Carolina.  In this role, he tried to provide the same loving care to his patients that he once provided to his grandmother.  In the future, it’s Eddie’s hope that he can obtain his nursing degree and work at a retirement home… Would America be better if Eddie Rivera were deported to Honduras, a country he barely remembers, or would our nation be better to have Eddie here?… We need Dreamers like Eddie and we need to act on their behalf this month.” 

Durbin continued, “In October, the Fifth Circuit returned a case to the lower court to determine whether DACA, which has protected 800,000 Dreamers since 2012, will remain the law of the land.  So unless Congress acts in the next few days to protect DACA recipients, this program could end even as soon as next year.  And what does that mean for those currently… protected by DACA?  Two things.  They are subject to deportation at any moment and they no longer have the legal right to work in the hospitals and clinics and businesses across America.  And if that happens, an average of 1,000 DACA recipients would lose their jobs each week in health care, education, and other sectors of our economy where we expect serious shortages.”

Durbin concluded, “The incoming Republican House majority has already declared that they will not allow a vote on any immigration measure during the next Congress.  It will be the same dynamic we saw in 2013 when we passed an immigration bill here in the Senate only to see it die in the House.  Let’s not repeat the same mistake.  To my Republican colleagues, I say this: If you care about improving border security or helping address worker shortages, this is our last chance to do it.  Let’s give every Dreamer in this country the peace of mind they deserve heading into the holiday season and let’s prove to the American people that we’re capable of making tough decisions when the situation demands it.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

Durbin first introduced the Dream Act 21 years ago.  Last year, Durbin and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the Dream Act of 2021.  The Dream Act was also included in the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that Durbin coauthored as part of the “Gang of Eight” – four Democrats and four Republicans.  The 2013 bill passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32, but the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives refused to consider it.

Over the years, Senate Republicans have filibustered the Dream Act at least five times.  Last year, Chair Durbin convened bipartisan immigration negotiations that failed after Senate Republicans made unreasonable demands.