Senators Launch Bipartisan Effort To Protect DREAMers From Trump

Rainier Ehrhardt

A Republican senator and a Democratic senator have joined forces to try to protect DREAMers and shield them from deportation as concerns mount that President-elect Donald Trump could repeal President Barack Obama's executive action to protect them.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) went to the Senate floor Thursday morning to announce his plan to work with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who had already told Politico Wednesday he was moving forward with a bill.

DREAMers are individuals who came to the U.S. illegally when they were still children. Many of them have little if any connections with their home countries, having grown up in the U.S. Obama took executive action in 2014 to protect them from deportation.

Legislative language is still in the works, but Durbin told reporters Thursday that the plan would be to give DREAMers protected status for a set amount of time until a broader immigration reform bill could be worked out in Congress. Senators passed a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013, but it stalled in the House of Representatives. Durbin suggested that he thought Republicans and Democrats might try again down the road.

Durbin said he and Graham have been discussing the issue of DREAMers ever since Trump was elected in November. There are 744,000 DREAMers that would be affected if Obama's executive action giving them protected status was rolled back. Without a status, they would not be able to legally work in the United States.

"I think there is a sentiment on the Republican side that supports this. Many of them are not willing to say it publicly at this point. That's okay, but I think we have a good chance of getting something through," Durbin said.

Other moderate Republicans like Jeff Flake (R-AZ)– who was an original member of the Senate's 2013 Gang of Eight that worked on the immigration bill– also hinted earlier this week that he wanted to see protections.

Durbin said that he wanted to see if he and Graham could introduced legislative language in the lame duck session of Congress, but he accepted that the bill would most likely not come up until next year. There is no indication yet whether it is something that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would be interested in spending time on. The Senate's schedule is crammed early next year with Trump's cabinet needing to be confirmed, an infrastructure bill and the momentous repeal and replace of Obamacare still looming.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren Fox is a reporter at Talking Points Memo.
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