The House passed legislation Tuesday designed to restore immigrant protections that President Trump gutted since taking office.
The bill, called the “American Dream and Promise Act,” covers refugees who were granted temporary protected status and so-called Dreamers — people who were brought to the United States as children by their parents.
“These are fathers and mothers. These are children,” Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), one of the bill’s authors, told the News. “They are business owners. They are engaged in our communities. They have a life here, including children who are American citizens.”
President Trump withdrew protections for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers when he tossed out President Obama’s DACA program that deferred action against migrants who arrived in the U.S. as children.
He followed that up by declaring he is ending protected status and what’s know as deferred enforcement departure for more than 300,000 other people who fled disasters and unrest in places such as Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras.
Both moves have been stalled in court challenges, but Velazquez said Trump’s actions a created “a state of fear and a state of limbo for so many people in this country.”
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), another sponsor of the bill, said it would help 109,000 people in New York City and 180,000 statewide who hold jobs and pay taxes.
“These immigrants are not only a part of our social fabric, but they directly boost our economy,” Clarke said during debate on the House floor.
Republicans hammered the bill as a political stunt that ignores the ongoing crisis at the southern border.
“Sadly, Democrats are making us consider a bill that will worsen — give a green light to — the border crisis, incentivizing more people to cross our borders illegally in hopes of getting a piece of the amnesty pie,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.).
“Today we’re considering a political messaging bill. The message is, America won’t enforce its laws or protect its people,” Collins said.
“It tells an entire generation of illegal immigrants that breaking our laws is rewarded,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.).
Velazquez acknowledged that there’s a messaging element to the bill, since there is unlikely to be support for it in the Republican-controlled Senate. The idea, she said, is to convince the Senate.
“Like one of our presidents said — Lincoln — public sentiment is everything,” Velazquez said, pointing to polling data that says well over 60% of the country supports protecting Dreamers and people with protected status.
“I will certainly use my voice to beat the drum and push senators like Marco Rubio to get behind these measures,” she said, referring to the Florida Republican who has supported immigration bills in the past and has a large population of protected Haitians and Central Americans in his state.
“We allow them to come here and now almost 20, 25 years later, we’re going to tell them, now you’re going to have to go back?” Velazquez said. “That is not right.”
With visitors in the House gallery chanting “Sí, se puede!” and the English translation “Yes, we can!” The bill passed 237 to 187. No Democrats votes against it while seven Republicans crossed the aisle to vote yes.