BY ANGELINA MARTIN
Congressman Jeff Denham has joined a group of over 50 bipartisan members of U.S. Congress to sponsor a bill that protects DACA recipients from deportation while implementing new border security measures.
The Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act is a bipartisan bill created in response to President Donald Trump’s call for a DACA replacement after he declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would end come March.
“The government asked Dreamers to come out of the shadows, and it’s time for Congress to pass legislation that will allow them to truly move forward with their lives,” said Denham. “The only way to accomplish this is through compromise that includes border security measures.”
The term “Dreamers” is originally derived from the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, introduced in 2001. The bill failed but was resurrected in later years through a number of forms as immigration reform remained a hot topic for Congress. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program went into effect, bringing forward many of the requirements first introduced in the DREAM Act and providing Dreamers temporary relief from deportation.
The USA Act, or H.R. 4796, provides an alternative for protecting DACA recipients from being deported and also advances reforms in Central America that “address the factors driving migration to the United States.”
“DACA recipients are American in every way possible except on paper,” said Denham. “They have paid their fees, passed background checks and are working, pursuing college degrees or serving in our military to contribute to the greatness of America.”
The USA Act would allow Dreamers pursuing an education, serving in the military or employed to apply for permanent U.S. resident status on a conditional basis, states the bill. If certain conditions for educational attainment, military service or employment are met, permanent resident status would be granted.
The bill would also create a comprehensive southern border strategy, improving requirements for security technology and providing for physical barriers or levees where necessary, and the USA Act would also increase the number of immigration judges to enhance the speed of pending and future cases.
The USA Act is not the first piece of legislation Denham has pushed for immigration reform, and he has often been vocal about the need for a DACA replacement. He introduced the Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training (ENLIST) Act to give qualified, undocumented immigrants the chance to earn citizenship through enlistment in the military in January 2017, and during an MSNBC taping on Jan. 10 discussed the urgent need for a DACA solution.
“We’ve never penalized kids for the deeds of their parents. So, this is something that it’s just the right thing to do. These kids know of no other home, they have no other country to go back to. They’ve graduated from high school alongside our kids, so ‘it’s the right thing to do’ is the biggest issue that should bring Republicans and Democrats together,” said Denham. “But just on the economy, the economic impacts of this – if you look at the statistics – we have strong facts that show that these Dreamers are not only working, but are also going to school and contributing back to our local economies.”
The USA Act currently has 55 co-sponsors – 28 Democrats and 27 Republicans. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on border and Maritime Security on Jan. 26.