U.S. House passes bill to offer ‘dreamers’ path to citizenship

The dome of the United States Capitol in Washington. (Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Tuesday passed a bill that aims to give up to 2.5 million undocumented immigrants a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

The legislation — a top priority for House Democrats — would offer protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and others who are currently without permanent legal status.

H.R. 6, called the “American Dream and Promise Act,” passed on largely partisan lines by a vote of 237-187. Seven Republicans broke ranks to side with Democrats to support the bill. Virginia’s delegation split on party lines. 

The vote comes after the Trump administration announced plans to end an Obama administration program to protect young immigrants — known as “dreamers” — from deportation.

The House legislation would also offer a pathway to citizenship for immigrants with temporary protections, known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

“Protecting Dreamers and TPS and DED Americans is about honoring the respect for family that is at the heart of our faith and who we are as Americans,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a press conference ahead of the vote. “There should be nothing partisan or political about this legislation.”

According to the Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy and advocacy group, Virginia is home to about 69,400 immigrants who are eligible for protection under the Dream and Promise Act. They live with 138,400 family members, including 32,300 U.S.-born citizen children.

“Eligible immigrants and their households contribute $647,300,000 in federal taxes and $309,700,000 in state and local taxes each year,” the center says.

The localities that host the largest numbers of them are Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun and Chesterfield counties and the cities of Alexandria and Arlington.

U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-10th, tweeted her support in English and Spanish.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, accused the Trump administration of putting immigrants’ “lives in limbo” and called the bill’s passage “a historic moment for the nation and for each of the 2.5 million individuals who have built their lives here and deserve a long-term legislative solution.”

In previous years, legislative efforts to grant protections to undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors have been bipartisan. But this effort appears unlikely to gain support in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate, given the partisanship that currently defines the immigration debate.

“The passage of the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 in the U.S. House of Representatives is a strong first step towards ensuring that men, women, and children fleeing violence can live safe and peaceful lives,” says Monica Sarmiento, executive director for the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights, a 34-organization collaborative. “It is now up to the Senate and the White House to pass and sign this bill into law. ”

However, that doesn’t appear likely.

Many House Republicans warned that Democrats were wasting their time on legislation that’s dead on arrival in the Senate, while others warned that it encourages immigrants to break the law.

The White House has issued a veto threat against the bill.

Editor Robert Zullo contributed.