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Elections Matter: House Democrats Take Big Step On Journey to Modernize Our Immigration System

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A Powerful Victory for the Common Sense and the Problem-Solving Americans Want from their Elected Leaders

Washington, DC – The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, regarding yesterday’s passage of the American Dream and Promise Act:

For years, Democrats have promised to make immigration reform a priority, and for years, Republicans have blocked overdue immigration reforms. Yesterday, Democrats in the House of Representatives unanimously delivered on their promise. And for the first time in nearly a decade, House Republicans found themselves in the minority, unable to block them.

Elections matter. The historic midterm victory for House Democrats in 2018 put in place a majority committed to a problem-solving agenda favored by the majority of Americans. Yesterday, Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats stepped into the middle of one of America’s most contentious issues, and boldly staked out the high ground. As a result, 2.5 million Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients are a step closer to being recognized in law as the Americans they already are in practice.

While immigration is contentious, the key provisions of the House-approved bill are not. Recent polling from Global Strategy Group, on behalf of FWD.us found that Americans back citizenship for Dreamers by a margin of 77% – 18%. Democrats support citizenship for Dreamers by 90% – 6%; independents by a 71% – 17% margin; and Republicans support the measure by a 64% – 31% margin.

You might think, that with this kind of broad, bipartisan support among voters, the American Dream and Promise Act would pass the House of Representatives with broad, bipartisan support. Unfortunately, the GOP is Trump’s party now. Yesterday, a long line of  Republican House members — including noted white nationalist Steve King (R-IA) — took to the House floor to smear Dreamers as criminals; to decry as an attack on the rule of law a proposal to create a line for immigrants to swear allegiance to America and assume all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; and to parrot Trump’s hysteria about the border — where the administration has so cruelly and chaotically mismanaged what is fundamentally a refugee crisis so much so that they have created a humanitarian crisis.

Still, seven brave Republicans voted for the bill, and supporters include business federations from the Chamber of Commerce to the National Association of Manufacturers to the Coalition for the American Dream to the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition. Members of Congress may be terrified of Trump’s tweets, rally goers, and Fox News cheerleaders, but many Republican voters and most business groups want the country to recognize deeply-rooted immigrants as the members of the American family and contributors to the American economy they are.

Finally, it’s worth noting the strength of the bill, the strength of Democratic support for it, and the strength of the movement behind it.   

  • This is the best version of a legalization bill ever enacted in Congress. It serves as a template for the fights to come over the legalization of the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants settled in America.
  • In 2007 a third of Senate Democrats voted against an immigration reform bill sponsored by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ),  and in 2010 a total of 38 House Democrats and 5 Senate Democrats voted against a narrower bill to legalize Dreamers. Yesterday, every House Democrat voted for the bill, and all but a handful resisted the odious GOP strategy of using a Motion to Recommit about “gang members getting green cards” to set up vicious 30-second attack ads against Democrats in 2020.
  • This shift in a decidedly pro-immigrant direction is the result of a stronger immigration reform movement — increasingly led by the courageous Dreamers and TPS holders willing to share their own American journeys and stories — and the result of a stronger embrace of immigrant justice by the broader progressive movement.

From our point of view, these advances are a BFD.

We recognize that with Trump as President and with the Senate GOP in his pocket that getting a signed bill into law will be difficult. But the clock is ticking, the lawsuits that are keeping protections in place offer only temporary relief, and the horrible consequences of Trump and the GOP putting Dreamers, TPS holders and DED recipients on a path to deportation could be right around the corner.

So, we are going to push hard to get Congress to do what the American people want. And if the Republicans won’t find a way to get to yes in this Congress, it will be up to voters to build on the historic House victory in 2018 to create a similar change in the Senate and the White House in 2020.