U.S. House votes to protect 2.5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives, by a vote of 237 – 187, approved legislation today to provide permanent legal protection and a path to U.S. citizenship to up to 2.5 million undocumented immigrants who have spent much of their lives in the U.S., including 9,600 in Colorado’s First Congressional District.
The move comes in the wake of repeated attempts by the Trump administration to end the nation’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which shields young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, from deportation; as well as the administration’s decision to end temporary protected status given to hundreds of thousands of immigrants whose home countries were devastated by a disaster.
“These are immigrants who have been living here in the U.S. for much of their lives,” said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), who cosponsored the legislation. “They are our friends and neighbors. And they are valuable members of our communities. No one should have to spend every day worried that they could suddenly be kicked out of the only home they’ve ever know. This bill will provide our Dreamers and TPS recipients the protections they deserve, and it will finally provide them a pathway to becoming full U.S. citizens.”
The legislation – known as the American Dream and Promise Act – would protect DACA recipients and DACA-eligible immigrants, as well as those with temporary protection status who are currently living in the U.S., from the threat of deportation.
Under the terms of the bill, any DACA recipient or DACA-eligible immigrant who entered the U.S. before they reached the age of 18, has been living in the U.S. for at least the last four continuous years before the bill is signed into law, graduates high school and has no serious criminal convictions on their record, would be eligible to apply for conditional resident status. Any Dreamer who obtains such status and then goes on to attend college, serve in the military, or hold down a job would be eligible to apply for permanent resident status and eventually U.S. citizenship.
There are currently 39,700 undocumented immigrants living in Colorado who would be eligible for protection under the bill.
According to one recent survey, Dreamers living in Colorado first arrived in the U.S., on average, when they were just eight-years-old; while the average TPS recipient living in the state has been in the U.S. for nearly 20 years.
If approved by the Senate, the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), would make Dreamers eligible for “conditional lawful permanent resident” status for up to 10 years if they:
- Have been continuously physically present in the U.S. for four years preceding the date of the enactment of the bill;
- Were under 18 years old on the initial date of entry into the U.S.;
- Graduate from high school, obtain a GED or industry-recognized credential; or are in a program assisting students to obtain a high school diploma, GED or equivalent exam, or are in an apprenticeship program;
- Pass security and law enforcement background checks and pay a reasonable application fee;
- Are not inadmissible on national security or criminal grounds (see section on national security and criminal bars below).
After obtaining “conditional lawful permanent resident” status, a Dreamer could then apply for “full lawful permanent resident” status if they:
- Acquire a degree from a U.S. institution of higher education; or complete at least two years in good standing in a bachelor’s or higher degree program or in an area career and technical education program at a post-secondary level in the U.S.; or
- Complete at least two years of military service, and if discharged, received an honorable discharge; or
- Be employed for periods of time totaling at least three years and at least 75 percent of the time the person having had employment authorization.
A Dreamer who has obtained “full lawful permanent resident” status will be required to wait an additional five years before applying for citizenship.
A Dreamer would be ineligible for protection under the bill if any one of the following apply:
- The applicant presents a risk to national security;
- The applicant has a felony conviction of any kind (excluding state immigration-related offenses);
- The applicant has any of the following misdemeanor convictions:
- 1 misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, with a sentence of more than 6 months;
- 2 misdemeanors involving moral turpitude, regardless of the sentence;
- 1 misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence, unless the applicant can demonstrate that he or she was actually a victim; or
- More than 2 misdemeanors of any kind, excluding offenses that should not prevent eligibility (i.e. minor traffic offenses; offenses related to immigration status, certain offenses involving cannabis and non-violent civil disobedience).
Immigrants who are currently in the country with Temporary Protected Status, would be eligible for “lawful permanent resident” status if they:
- Have been in the United States for a period of three years before the bill’s enactment;
- Had, or were eligible for, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) on January 1, 2017; and
- Have not committed any acts that would disqualify them for relief under these longstanding programs. Among other things, applicants cannot have any felony convictions or more than one misdemeanor conviction.
A TPS recipient who has obtained “lawful permanent resident” status will be required to wait an additional five years before applying for citizenship.