New York Democrats Moving to Force Vote on DREAM Act

Congressional Democrats discussing a discharge petition to bring the DREAM Act to the House floor. House Democrats Facebook/Screenshot

Members of the New York congressional delegation, along with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, are calling on the GOP to sign a discharge petition that would bring a clean DREAM Act to the House floor for a vote.

By using a discharge petition, the Democrats would be able to bring the legislation to the floor without having to get approval from House leadership. If the petition is signed by a majority of Members, the House would be forced to take a vote on the bipartisan, bicameral DREAM Act, which would put the 800,000 DREAMers on a path to earn citizenship.

Former President Barack Obama established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012 for undocumented youth brought to the United States in their early childhood. President Donald Trump recently ended the program and gave Congress six months to come up with immigration legislation. 

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens/Bronx), who is also the House Democratic Caucus chairman, said that he met with DACA recipients last week. He said that protecting the recipients is a “moral issue not only for Congress but for the American people.”

“It’s like taking these young people and airdropping them into their land of birth and saying, ‘Go on now, make the best of life,'” Crowley said. “It’s immoral. It’s absurd that we’re even having this debate because … these individuals are American in every way but on paper — but on paper.”

He said that the discharge petition is a chance for both Democrats and Republicans to save DACA recipients’ lives.

“We do have an opportunity because we have this vehicle to get it to the floor and I call upon my Republican colleagues to join us in a truly bipartisan effort to bring this bill to the floor,” Crowley continued. “It will radically change lives. It will save, it will literally save people’s lives. Save lives. That’s what they can do by signing this discharge petition. I think they have a moral obligation to do so. We know we do.”

U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Upper Manhattan), who is formerly undocumented and a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said that his maternal grandparents came to the New York City in the 1950s, both factory workers.

He said that they circulated a bipartisan letter today signed by 99 congressional lawmakers asking for DACA recipients to be allowed to reapply until a legislative solution is found — a move he said would not be necessary if the petition moves forward and is embraced by leaders in both parties.

“It is the first step in the road to bringing back stability to 800,000 DACA recipients,” Espaillat said. “Just to know the magnitude of it, there are more DACA recipients than any constituencies in any one of our congressional districts. So it will be as though an entire congressional district will be subject to deportation.”

He also noted that he recently participated in act of civil disobedience with U.S. Reps. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also partook in the action. They were all  subsequently arrested.

“We did not do this because it was popular or it was nice to do,” he continued. “We did it because we know firsthand that the only way you will change America in a civil rights issue. It happened for a women’s right to vote. It happened for the civil rights of African Americans and it also happened for people to be able to marry anybody they love — is to change the hearts of our nation to have the public sentiment on our side.”

Two GOP senators have introduced the SUCEED Act, a conservative version of the DREAM Act that would protect DACA recipients if they meet merit-based rules. They would receive citizenship status in 15 years and would not be able to sponsor family members.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are currently working on an agreement with Trump to protect the DACA recipients. The pair said both sides agreed that during a dinner at the White House that a border wall would not be part of the deal.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for his part, warned Democrats to “exercise extreme caution” as they hammer out the details of the agreement, arguing that Trump will push forward a “cyber wall.” Pelosi was recently shouted down by young immigrant advocate protesters at an event in San Francisco. She subsequently said that Democrats would continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform.

“We’re very pleased that the president has told … Mr. Schumer and me that he would support,” Pelosi said. “As we go forward, we have to come up with some other aspects of it. And this is — it’s a great moment for our country.”

New York Democrats Moving to Force Vote on DREAM Act