Durbin Statement on DREAM Act and Administrative Action to Help Young Immigrants

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement today after the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that the Obama Administration would halt the deportations of immigrant students who could earn citizenship under Durbin’s DREAM Act.

“The Obama Administration’s decision to extend temporary legal status to DREAM Act students is an historic humanitarian moment. This action will give these young immigrants their chance to come out of the shadows and be part of the only country they’ve ever called home. These young people did not make the decision to come to this country, and it is not the American way to punish children for their parents’ actions.  I commend President Obama and Secretary Janet Napolitano for their courage and leadership.  I also want to thank Senator Dick Lugar for having the courage to confront Tea Party orthodoxy and join me on a bipartisan basis to request this change in policy”

“I first made this request of the Administration two years ago and renewed it with the support of 21 Senators last year. Because the House has refused to consider the DREAM Act and a filibuster blocked it in the Senate, this Presidential action was absolutely necessary to serve the cause of justice.”

“For over a decade, I’ve been working to pass the DREAM Act – a bill that would give these immigrant students the chance to earn citizenship. I’m hopeful that today’s announcement will encourage Congress to meet our responsibility to pass the DREAM Act, and show, through the force of law, that our country continues to be a nation of immigrants.

Two years ago, Senator Durbin and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) asked the Department of Homeland Security to suspend the deportations of DREAM Act students by granting them deferred action. With today’s announcement, the Administration has taken the exact steps the Senators requested in their 2010 letter. A copy of that letter can be found here.

Last year, Durbin and Lugar were joined by 21 additional Senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), in urging this change in deportation policy.  A copy of that letter can be found here.

Today’s announcement states that certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, who do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.

The Administration’s new policy will apply to those who meet the following criteria:

  1. Came to the United States under the age of sixteen
  2. Have lived in the United States continuously for at least the last five years
  3. Are in school, have graduated from high school, obtained a GED or are serving in the military.
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor.
  5. Are 30 years old or younger.

What the Obama Administration has done in halting DREAM Act deportations is both perfectly appropriate and legal.  Throughout our history, the government has decided who to prosecute – and who not to prosecute – based on law enforcement priorities, available resources and our national interests.

The DREAM Act is a narrowly tailored bill to give undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing. Senator Durbin first introduced the DREAM Act in 2001 and has reintroduced the legislation every Congress since then.