Sen. Durbin: Time running out for Senate to pass ‘dreamer’ legislation

With Republicans set to take control of the House in January, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Democrats need to find 10 Republicans to support Dreamer bill in December,

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Sen. Dick Durbin,D-Ill., the founder of the DREAMer movement, and other Democratic senators on Wednesday push for GOP support in the Senate during the lame-duck session to approve protections for Dreamers — youths brought to the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own.

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the founder of the “Dreamer” movement, explained the “grim reality” of this moment on Wednesday — the urgency of finding in this lame-duck session 10 GOP senators to support permanent protections for youths brought to the U.S. illegally — before Republicans take control of the House next year.

Durbin has been working on legalizing the status of “dreamers” since 2001. This class of immigrants — youths in legal limbo through no fault of their own, many adults by now — got their name from a bill Durbin first co-sponsored with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors” Act.

The math is very tough and changed with the election last week, to the disadvantage of “dreamers,” because Republicans, with its members including anti-immigrant hardliners, will control the House when the new session starts in January.

“Dreamer” legislation easily passed the Democratic-controlled House and stalled in the Senate, where it takes a supermajority of 60 votes for a measure to pass. At present, the Senate is 50-50, so Democrats need to find 10 GOP votes. Durbin said he has four or five Republican votes lined up — which means he still needs more to get to 10.

With Republicans in charge of the House next year, passing “dreamer” legislation again — and a new vote will be needed — will be very tough.

That Democrats will retain control of the Senate next year does not matter if a “dreamer” bill cannot clear the House.

Standing outside the Capitol, flanked by other Democratic senators and “dreamers,” Durbin said, “These young people can make America better. We need “dreamers” more now than ever. We need to make sure that this Congress responds to the political reality which we are facing.

“Let’s put the cards directly on the table. We know that it’s important in December that we pass the DREAM Act. December of this year, when we return from Thanksgiving, because if the House moves, as we think it might, politically, it becomes increasingly difficult after the first of the year to take up this issue.

“We need to do it now. And to do that we need a bipartisan support in the United States Senate. That’s the grim reality, the political reality of the moment. We need 10 Republicans who will step up and join us in this effort. I can think of four or five as I stand here, we need more,” Durbin said.

President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — nicknamed DACA — and gave temporary and life-changing — protections for “dreamers.” But since the provisions were not a law — they were weakened by President Donald Trump and subsequent court challenges, putting on the table for “dreamers” the fear they could be deported to nations they have never lived in.

Durbin, the chair of the Judiciary Committee, which handles immigration legislation, urged Republicans to consider the results of the mid-term elections last week in Arizona — where Democrats won closely contested Senate and governor races — and where voters at the same time passed a ballot initiative to give in-state college tuition to “dreamers.”

“So I would say to my Republican colleagues, the lesson from this election that took place a few days ago, was extremism in the pursuit of justice is never acceptable when it discriminates against good people.

“Dreamers are good people from good families too. And we need to make sure that we can remember that as we pursue this goal. We’ve got an opportunity. That opportunity is the month in December. I’m prepared to sit down with any Republican in the Senate who wants to talk about this issue. I’m inviting some in, we’re talking privately, we’re meeting and drawing our people together. We have to make sure that this is a high priority this month of December, and to make it a priority, we need the votes behind it.”

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., who chairs the Judiciary Committee immigration subcommittee, underscored how the clock was quickly running out for any legislative relief for “dreamers.”

“This is a crucial moment,” Padilla said. “Come January, it’s going to be extremely difficult to get through common-sense, humane immigration reform, including protection for DACA participants and all “dreamers.’”

Republicans through the years have been linking deals to protect “dreamers” to securing the U.S.-Mexico border; Democrats have been open to discussing this sort of a deal.

Said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-NV, Congress can protect “dreamers” and “at the same time, strengthen border security. We can do both.”

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