Has the Dream Act’s time fi­nally ar­rived?

Democrats’ plan to re­place DACA looks like a bill that did not pass 16 years ago.

Los Angeles Times - - ESSENTIAL POLITICS - By Sarah D. Wire sarah.wire@la­times.com Read more about the 55 mem­bers of Cal­i­for­nia’s del­e­ga­tion at la­times.com/pol­i­tics.

WASHINGTON — Six­teen years ago, Downey Rep. Lu­cille Roy­bal-Al­lard helped file leg­is­la­tion that would have al­lowed peo­ple brought to the coun­try il­le­gally as chil­dren to stay in the United States.

That bill be­came the Dream Act. Its fail­ure to pass in Congress led to the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, which Pres­i­dent Trump this month de­cided to end as he urged Congress to find a re­place­ment.

If Democrats have their way, DACA’s re­place­ment will look a lot like what Roy­bal-Al­lard pro­posed in 2001. Demo­cratic lead­ers emerged from a meet­ing with Trump on Wed­nes­day night say­ing Roy­bal-Al­lard’s bill, which in­cludes a path to cit­i­zen­ship for some im­mi­grants in the coun­try il­le­gally, must be part of Congress’ plan to pro­tect DACA re­cip­i­ents.

Roy­bal-Al­lard said she started work­ing on the leg­is­la­tion af­ter a late-1990s con­ver­sa­tion with a worker in her of­fice who was wor­ried about a col­lege friend liv­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally.

“She was telling me about her friend who had grad­u­ated from col­lege and could not get a job, and that she was al­ways liv­ing in fear of be­ing de­ported,” Roy­bal-Al­lard said.

Roy­bal-Al­lard teamed up with now-former Demo­cratic Los An­ge­les Rep. Howard Ber­man and now­former Utah Repub­li­can Rep. Chris Can­non. They pro­posed a bill that would have given per­ma­nent le­gal sta­tus to some young im­mi­grants and re­moved a ban on non­res­i­dents us­ing stu­dent aid. It died in com­mit­tee with­out a hear­ing.

The first Los An­ge­les Times ar­ti­cle on the ini­tia­tive fo­cused on how the bill would make it eas­ier for stu­dents in the coun­try il­le­gally to pay for col­lege.

It was the bill’s Se­nate spon­sor, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who changed its drab ti­tle, the Stu­dent Ad­just­ment Act, to the De­vel­op­ment, Re­lief and Ed­u­ca­tion for Alien Mi­nors Act, or the Dream Act. The ti­tle be­came a ral­ly­ing cry for peo­ple brought to the coun­try il­le­gally as chil­dren, and they be­gan call­ing them­selves “Dreamers.”

Durbin’s name change helped the bill catch fire, Roy­bal-Al­lard said.

“I think it rep­re­sents what ev­ery young per­son has, their dreams for the fu­ture, their dreams to go to col­lege or what­ever their as­pi­ra­tion is,” Roy­bal-Al­lard said. “That one word en­com­passes all of that.”

The bill, which has evolved from em­pha­siz­ing fi­nan­cial aid for higher ed­u­ca­tion to fo­cus­ing on a path to cit­i­zen­ship for chil­dren who were brought here il­le­gally, has been filed again and again. In 2006 and 2007, the bill’s text was in­serted into a bi­par­ti­san im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy over­haul that failed. In 2010, a ver­sion that out­lined details such as ap­pli­ca­tion fees and work re­quire­ments for Dreamers passed the House, but a com­pan­ion bill died in the Se­nate.

“One of the things I’ve learned since I’ve been here [is] things move re­ally slow even when they seem to me [to be] no-brain­ers, things that should be very, very sim­ple,” Roy­bal-Al­lard said.

Frus­trated that Congress couldn’t pass it, Roy­bal-Al­lard and the Con­gres­sional His­panic Cau­cus pleaded with Pres­i­dent Obama to do some­thing. He cre­ated DACA in 2012, which pro­tected some peo­ple brought into the coun­try il­le­gally as chil­dren if they passed a back­ground check and were in school or em­ployed.

About half of those es­ti­mated to be el­i­gi­ble, more than 800,000 peo­ple, gave the gov­ern­ment per­sonal in­for­ma­tion such as their fin­ger­prints and home ad­dresses to get a two-year re­prieve from de­por­ta­tion and a work per­mit. A quar­ter of them were Cal­i­for­ni­ans.

Now Trump has halted new DACA ap­pli­ca­tions and given Congress six months to pass leg­is­la­tion for Dreamers be­fore he shut­ters the pro­gram. Re­cip­i­ents have un­til Oct. 5 to ap­ply for a re­newal, so Demo­cratic lead­ers, and some Repub­li­cans, want Congress to pass leg­is­la­tion by then.

At least four bills are in the mix to ad­dress the mil­lions of peo­ple thought to have been brought to the coun­try il­le­gally as chil­dren.

Most of the bills of­fer an even­tual path to cit­i­zen­ship for Dreamers. One, the Bridge Act, does not and would sim­ply en­shrine Obama’s DACA pro­gram into law for three years, giv­ing Congress more time to come up with a so­lu­tion.

Roy­bal-Al­lard’s new­est Dream Act is sim­i­lar to the 2010 ver­sion, but in­cludes im­me­di­ate pro­tec­tion from de­por­ta­tion for the Dreamers who signed up for DACA. Democrats say the bill’s age, work and ed­u­ca­tion re­quire­ments would al­low a broad group of Dreamers to qual­ify while main­tain­ing some of the lim­i­ta­tions Repub­li­cans want.

Rep. Linda T. Sanchez of Whit­tier, who is the vice chair­woman of the House Demo­cratic Cau­cus, said Democrats want a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion that pro­tects as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble who were brought to the coun­try as chil­dren il­le­gally. Al­most 200 Democrats and four Repub­li­cans back Roy­bal-Al­lard’s bill. Democrats are try­ing to force a pro­ce­dural move that would send the Dream Act to the House floor for a vote.

“We want a clear leg­isla­tive res­o­lu­tion so that we don’t have to keep kick­ing the can down the road. Sus­tain­ing some­thing that was al­ways meant to be a tem­po­rary pro­gram doesn’t re­solve the is­sue,” Sanchez said.

Any whiff of a path to cit­i­zen­ship for peo­ple who en­tered the coun­try il­le­gally has been a non-starter for many Repub­li­cans. With the GOP con­trol­ling both cham­bers, it will likely be a stick­ing point.

Rep. Jeff Den­ham of Tur­lock, one of four Repub­li­can co-spon­sors of Roy­bal-Al­lard’s bill, said he’s try­ing to get bi­par­ti­san dis­cus­sions started in or­der to make a deal by Oc­to­ber. He’s cospon­sored some of the other bills as well, and isn’t set on a par­tic­u­lar plan.

Roy­bal-Al­lard said she hopes the pres­i­dent’s sym­pa­thy for Dreamers, and public sup­port for them, will sway Repub­li­cans to se­ri­ously con­sider her bill this time.

“This is an is­sue, re­ally, that should have been done a long time ago,” she said.

Ta­sos Katopodis Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

REP. LU­CILLE Roy­bal-Al­lard, cen­ter, speak­ing on Capi­tol Hill, pro­posed the Dream Act in 2001 to al­low peo­ple brought to the coun­try il­le­gally as chil­dren to stay in the U.S. It failed to pass af­ter sev­eral at­tempts.

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