Durbin: With Dreamers' Future Uncertain, Senate Must Pass Dream Act Now

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today again came to the Senate floor to call on Republican leaders in Congress to pass the bipartisan Dream Act now.  As of March 5, 2018 – the arbitrary deadline that President Trump set for expiration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, faced losing their work permits and being deported to countries they barely remember.  Because a federal court has issued an order blocking President Trump’s repeal of DACA, Dreamers that have DACA can continue to apply to renew their status for now.

“It is still uncertain as to what’s going to happen.  What happens if the Court lifts this injunction?  What will be the future of these young people?” Durbin asked.  “It is a test of who we are as a nation, whether we believe in fairness and opportunity or whether we’re going to walk away from our legacy – this nation of immigrants.  We need the President to step up and lead.”

On March 7, 2018, Durbin spoke with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, who personally assured him that Dreamers with pending DACA renewal applications will not be deported, even if their DACA status has expired.

As of January 31, 2018, more than 29,000 initial DACA applications – for people who never had DACA – and more than 25,000 DACA renewal applications were pending.  Of these pending renewal applications, nearly 14,000 were from recipients whose DACA had already expired.  Tens of thousands more Dreamers have DACA protection due to expire soon: around 13,000 DACA permits could expire in March, another 5,300 could expire in April, and nearly 14,000 more in May. 

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

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

Today, Durbin shared the story of Maria Torres Mendoza, the 111th Dreamer whose story he has told on the Senate floor.  When Maria was only five years old, her family brought her to the United States from Mexico.  She grew up in the state of Washington.  Maria’s family didn’t have much money, so she had to work hard from a young age.  As a child, Maria was a paper girl.  She would deliver 100 newspapers every morning.  She also worked odd jobs, shoveling snow and cutting grass.  While she was in high school, Maria worked as a restaurant server every night, and she continued delivering papers.  Because of her family’s financial struggles, Maria was even homeless for a time.  Through it all, Maria was an excellent student and, despite her family’s difficulties, she managed to graduate from high school with a 3.8 grade point average. 

Maria never thought she would be able to attend college, but she was accepted into Washington State University Tri Cities.  Maria is a senior now and this spring she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and minor in computer science.  Maria is currently working as a student engineer at ATI Titanium and Specialty Alloys, a specialty parts manufacturer.  Her main project is creating a system to facilitate the usage of AutoCAD drawings and manuals for engineering and maintenance.  Maria’s dream is to pursue a master’s degree and become an engineer.  She is particularly interested in nuclear power mechatronics – the technology that combines electronics and mechanical engineering.

In July of last year, Durbin and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the bipartisan Dream Act, which would allow immigrant students who grew up in the United States to earn lawful permanent residence and eventually American citizenship. 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.