Durbin: Congress Must Act in the Lame Duck Session to Protect Dreamers

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 about the urgency of passing the Dream Act before the end of the year 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.

“Last month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded a case to a lower court to determine whether DACA would remain the law of the land.  It’s still under attack… Unless Congress acts in the next three weeks to protect DACA recipients, DACA could end as soon as next year.  An average of 1,000 DACA recipients would lose their jobs and their legal right to work every single week.  In health care and in education, in sectors of our economy that are so essential to our growth, DACA recipients are doing the work.  They turn out to be the nurses, sometimes the doctors, as well as teachers, engineers, policemen, firefighters, and they’re going to be deported if we don’t come to their rescue and finally make DACA legal once and for all,” Durbin said.  “Does anyone think for one minute that America would be better off if we start deporting doctors and nurses… and those who are protected by DACA?  The answer is clearly no.”

Durbin also shared the story of one Dreamer, Karen Villagomez.  Karen’s parents brought her to America from Mexico when she was just two years old.   

“Karen was a freshman at the University of Rochester in New York when I first heard of her.  It was spring break of her freshman year in college.  She was hoping to fly home to Chicago to surprise her family.  Instead she was arrested and detained by ICE.  One lawyer told her she probably had about four months before she was going to be deported back to Mexico,” Durbin said.  “Karen and her family called my office.  There was a lot of emotion in that phone conversation.  My staff and I reached out to the federal agencies and said, ‘Don’t deport her.  Give her a chance.  You won’t regret it.  She has no background that suggests she’s any danger to this country, but she has so much promise and determination.  Give her a chance.’  Well, they decided to give her a reprieve, a short-term suspension of the deportation.  Karen went on with one reprieve after another, never knowing whether she was going to be deported before she could even finish college, but she finally did.  Then she came back to Chicago, and she was accepted at Northwestern University Law School.”

With DACA, Karen has been able to work as a paralegal, a counsel for the City of Chicago, and a clerk for a federal judge in Chicago.  She got married, and three weeks ago, she became a United States citizen.  Durbin attended the ceremony and was there to see her take the oath of citizenship. 

Durbin concluded, “We need ten Republican Senators to join all the Democrats… We can break the filibuster [and] get the supermajority we need under the Senate rules… We need less political posturing and more compromise and determination. We should start now in this lame duck session to protect the Dreamers, for their future and our own.”

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 to cut legal immigration and limit theDream Act to only current DACA recipients.