Durbin Questions Witnesses During Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on the Urgent Need to Protect Dreamers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned witnesses during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Dream Deferred: The Urgent Need to Protect Immigrant Youth.”  The hearing emphasized the urgent need forCongress to pass legal protections for noncitizens who were brought to the United States as children.  These young people, known as Dreamers, have lived in America since they were children, built their lives here, and are American in every way except for their immigration status.  However, under current law, there is often no chance for them to ever become citizens and fulfill their potential. 

Durbin first questioned Illinoisan Mitchell Soto-Rodriguez, the first DACA recipient to serve in the Blue Island Police Department, about her application to the DACA program and how if the program is eliminated, Officer Soto-Rodriguez could lose her job.  Durbin also asked about current shortages of law enforcement personnel in the country, which Officer Soto-Rodriguez agreed exist.

Durbin continued, “I’ve been told by police departments across our state that they are struggling to get recruits.  If some of the witnesses who testify want to eliminate the DACA program, what’s going to happen to you?”

She responded that she will lose her job and not be able to support her family financially.

Durbin then asked Jessica Vaughan, the Director of Policy Studies, Center forImmigration Studies (CIS), about Officer Soto-Rodriguez’s story as a law enforcement officer.  Ms. Vaughan has previously criticized DACA recipients as criminals and CIS has published arguments against DACA recipients serving as police officers.   

“Do you really think America would be a better country if [Officer Soto-Rodriguez] were deported?” Durbin asked.

Ms. Vaugh responded that she does not think it would be.

“Neither do I,” Durbin responded.

Durbin then asked Tom Wong, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California at San Diego, about the economic benefits of the DACA program.

“When it comes to the DACA program, we know that there are people eligible under the original program to apply for DACA but who have been unable to because of a court decision.  Are you aware of that?”Durbin asked.

Professor Wong responded that he was aware.  Last September, a federal judge in Texas declared the DACA program illegal.  Though the decision left in place protections for current DACA recipients while the appeal is pending, they live in fear that the next court decision will upend their lives.

Durbin then asked Professor Wong about his research and projections on the impact that DACA recipients and Dreamers have on the economy.

Professor Wong responded that it’s currently estimated that all Dreamers contribute an estimate $45 billion to the economy each year through their wages.  They also contribute a combined $13 million in taxes.  They also make contributions to Social Security and Medicare.  A 2022 estimate suggests that DACA recipients contributed over $2 billion to those programs.  If DACA were to end, experts estimate that the U.S. economy might lose $1 billion monthly as DACA recipients’ work permits expire over a two-year period, and more than half a million U.S. jobs over the same period.

Durbin then asked Gaby Pacheco, CEO of TheDream.US, about Republicans’ arguments that we must fix the border before passing the Dream Act, while they have failed to produce real solutions for meaningful immigration reform, and how providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers is not mutually exclusive from measures to enhance border security.

“What message would you give to those who believe the failures and crisis at the border should be held against those who are eligible forDACA?” Durbin asked.

Ms. Pacheco responded that “we cannot wait.  We can do both things at once.  I was there in 2018—I was devastated when I heard President Trump tell the Senators that we shouldn’t do a border-Dreamer amendment. We have had this issue for 20 some years. We need to do something now.”

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here for TV Stations.

Durbin first introduced the Dream Act to protect Dreamers in 2001This bipartisan legislation would allow Dreamers to earn lawful permanent status if they undergo rigorous background checks and meet certain education or work requirements.  The Dream Act was also included in the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that Durbin coauthored as part of the “Gang of Eight”—made up of 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.