After President Trump promised to repeal President Obama’s executive order protecting so-called Dreamers from deportation, the future of the program is uncertain. A bipartisan bill from three Washington members of Congress would extend the program’s protections.
Legislation pushed by three Washington members of Congress — two Republicans and one Democrat — would extend protections to so-called Dreamers, young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children without legal permission.
The bill, which Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Seattle, Dave Reichert of Auburn and Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside signed on to co-sponsor on Monday, would protect people currently covered by President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program.
People eligible for DACA — undocumented immigrants age 35 and under who came to the U.S. before age 16, have lived here since 2007 and are in school, or have graduated or served in the military — would be protected from possible deportation for three years.
Obama created DACA, which covers about 750,000 people nationwide and 17,000 in Washington, by executive order. President Trump repeatedly promised on the campaign trail to repeal that order.
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It remains unclear what action Trump will take. He could repeal the program, or his administration could simply stop giving out new authorizations but continue to renew protections for those already participating.
His comments on DACA since the election have been vague.
“They shouldn’t be very worried,” he said of Dreamers in an interview last week with ABC News. “They are here illegally. They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody. We’re going to have a very strong border.”
Reichert and Newhouse, both Republicans, criticized the implementation of Trump’s recent executive order temporarily banning all refugees and immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries, but would not say if they supported or opposed the underlying policy.
But Reichert has a history of supporting DACA.
“We can and should defend the children who were brought to our nation many years ago outside their own control,” Reichert said Tuesday, in a prepared statement. “This is their country and their home.”
Newhouse voted to end DACA in 2015. He told the Yakima Herald in July that he did so because it was done through executive action, which he called unconstitutional.
“Our own communities in central Washington are a testament to the contributions of immigrants to the fabric of American society,” Newhouse said in a prepared statement. “These children and young adults deserve stability here in the U.S. while Congress comes together on long term immigration reform.”
Jayapal, a newly elected Democrat who previously founded an immigrant advocacy group, called it a “moral responsibility” to protect Dreamers.
“Not only because they are our friends, neighbors and loved ones, but because it’s the right thing to do,” she said in a prepared statement. “We are the land of opportunity that welcomes anyone seeking a better life and access to the American dream.”