Durbin Urges Congress to Find a Permanent Pathway for Dreamers and Pass His Dream Act

As the author of the Dream Act, Durbin highlights his 141st Dreamer story on the Senate floor

WASHINGTON  U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke on the Senate floor highlighting his Dream Act, bipartisan legislation that would allow noncitizens without lawful status who were brought to the United States as children and meet certain education or work requirements to earn lawful permanent residence.  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. 

During his speech, Durbin told the story of Edon Molla, a Dreamer who came to the United States with his family when he was just two years old, fleeing from the war in Kosovo. 

Durbin said, “I thought that the best way to describe this issue to people because it's still in controversy, still tied up in the courts as to whether DACA will have a future, is to share stories of the DACA recipients and who they are.  I do that again today.  This is the 141st DACA recipient—Dreamer—that I have told the story about here on the floor of the Senate.”

Edon was selected for the all-state team and played Division I basketball at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY.  In addition to his basketball career, Edon excelled in the classroom and graduated from college with honors.  After college, multiple teams approached him about playing professional basketball in Europe.  Unfortunately, he was forced to decline all of these offers due to his immigration status.  Edon is now starting a Master’s in Business Administration at Cornell University.  He plans to pursue his Master’s degree as he continues his musical career.  Edon is currently protected from deportation thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. 

Durbin continued, “DACA has allowed Edon to pursue his dreams for the time being—but DACA was always intended to be a temporary solution.  Since President Obama established the program, Republicans have waged a relentless campaign to overturn DACA and deport these Dreamers back to countries they may not even remember.  And now this program is hanging by a thread in the courts—and DACA recipients, like Edon, are being forced to live in fear and uncertainty every single day.”

More than 20 years ago, Durbin first introduced the Dream Act.  In 2010, Durbin sent a letter, joined by then-Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), asking then-President Obama to stop the deportation of Dreamers.  Nearly 12 years ago, President Obama responded by announcing the DACA program.  More than 800,000 Dreamers have since come forward and received DACA, which has allowed them to contribute more fully to their country as teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, and small business owners.  Dreamers are protected from deportation for now, but due to lawsuits by extreme MAGA Republicans, their fates are in the hands of a Republican-appointed judge who has repeatedly found DACA and other programs like it unlawful.

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.

“Court decisions have also prevented any new Dreamers from registering for the program.  This means that without congressional action, if we do nothing [and] continue to do nothing, hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who are ready to serve in their communities across the country may never have that opportunity,” Durbin said.

Studies have estimated that if DACA were to end, 1,000 U.S. jobs would be lost every business day for the next two years.  If DACA is struck down, experts predict that our economy would lose an estimated $11.7 billion each year in lost wages.  As we face a decreasing population and shortages of medical professionals, immigrants can help mitigate that gap.   And without continued immigration, the U.S. working-age population will shrink by over six million by 2040.  As Americans retire, this could lead to a 23 percent reduction in monthly Social Security payouts to retirees.

“When he was President, Donald Trump tried to end the DACA program… And as a candidate, he has threatened to round up and deport undocumented immigrants [like Edon].  We can no longer stand idly by while extremist judges and politicians toy with the future of these young people who have only ever known life in this country.  We in Congress should protect Dreamers like Edon right now,” Durbin said.

“I urge my colleagues to reach out to Dreamers in their states to learn more about these talented young people.  I have given these speeches on the floor [about Dreamers].  These young people are good people—they deserve as much chance as our children do—to become part of this nation’s future. They are business owners, teachers, parents, athletes, scientists, nurses, health care workers, musicians, and so much more.  Would America be better if they were gone?  I think not.  It’s clear that they are an important part of our future and an important part of our American life.  It is time to get to work and pass the Dream Act once and for all.  It’s the right thing to do—and it is long overdue,” Durbin concluded.

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.

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.