On Wednesday, May 22, the House Judiciary “marked-up” or debated HR 6 an immigration reform bill. The legislation was split into three bills for Committee action purposes: H.R. 2820, the “Dream Act of 2019”; H.R. 2821, the “American Promise Act of 2019”; and H.R. 549, the “Venezuela TPS Act of 2019”.
In March the DREAM and Promise Act was introduced by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), with Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY) as the lead sponsors out of a total of 232 cosponsors. The first bill offered as a substitute bill was a DREAMERS bill that will allow young people a legal presence and a pathway to citizenship.
DREAMERS would receive conditional permanent resident status and cancelation of removal proceedings if they: have been continuously physically present in the U.S. for 4 years preceding the date of the enactment of the bill; were 17 years old or younger on the initial date of entry into the U.S.; are not inadmissible as a result of criminal, security and terrorism, smuggling, student visa abuse, ineligibility for citizenship, polygamy, or several other conditions.
As in previous DREAMERS bills, they must meet certain minimum education requirements such as high school or GEDs. To gain full lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, Dreamers would have to get a degree from an 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 two years of military service with an honorable discharge. The bill would also offer a path to citizenship.
The debate on the DREAMERS bill took most of the day as a series of amendments were offered by Republican members of the Committee. There were several concerns with the legislation, particularly related to discretionary bars on the basis of juvenile adjudications and alleged gang affiliation. The bill was finally approved late in the day by a vote of 19 to 10 with the final vote along party lines.
The other two bills addressed protects the legal residents who have been granted a legal temporary protected status (TPS) due to threatening conditions in their county. The substitute version of the American Promise Act of 2019 and the Venezuela TPS Act of 2019” (substitute for HR 549) would cancel the actions of the Administration to terminate TPS with the second bill specific to Venezuelans.
Earlier this year the Judiciary Committee took up the subject of TPS which is granted by the Secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security to eligible foreign-born individuals, who are unable to return home safely due to conditions or circumstances preventing them from returning to their country. The Trump administration terminated TPS designations for six countries earlier this year, with three more expiring in 2020. This winter the Washington Post recently described one family being forced to leave the U.S. despite growing up here with roots in this country that can be traced to Civil War America.
The legislation grants individuals with TPS and LPR status a stay and cancel removal proceedings if they under certain conditions. The debate over these two bills was shorter but they too were approved, like the DREAMERS legislation, separately along party lines vote.
Now that the three separate bills will be re-combined into HR 6 before a vote in the House of Representatives expected sometime after the Memorial Day break. If that happens (and the bill has more than the necessary 218 in votes in cosponsors) it will be the first time that either House has approved a DREAMERS and major immigration bill since the 2013 comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate. That legislation, S 744 of 2013, was passed on a bipartisan basis and died when Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) refused to take it or any immigration legislation up for consideration. This year there has been some support for a bipartisan DREAMERS bill in the Senate, but the President’s position would likely require his own set of requirements and restrictions.