Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced on December 9, 2016, that they have introduced S. 3542, a bipartisan bill “to protect undocumented individuals should the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program be discontinued.” Cosponsors include Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). The legislation, dubbed the “Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act,” would provide temporary relief from removal and work authorization to young undocumented persons who were brought to the United States as children.”
DACA, which the Obama administration implemented via executive order, provides temporary protection from removal and work authorization to young students and veterans who grew up in the United States if they register with the government, pay a fee, and pass a criminal background check. More than 740,000 young people have received DACA. Temporary protection under the BRIDGE Act “would ensure that these young people can continue to work and study and be protected from deportation while Congress debates broader legislation to fix our broken immigration system,” Sen. Durbin said.
Key points of the BRIDGE Act include:
- A current DACA recipient would receive provisional protected status until the expiration date of his or her DACA status and could apply for provisional protected presence prior to this expiration.
- An individual who is not a DACA recipient but who is eligible for DACA could also apply for provisional protected presence.
- Applicants would be required to pay a reasonable fee, be subject to criminal background checks, and meet a number of eligibility criteria indicating that they came to the United States as minors, grew up in the United States, have pursued an education, have not committed any serious crimes, and do not pose a threat to the United States.
- An individual’s provisional protected presence and employment authorization would be subject to revocation by the Department of Homeland Security if the individual no longer met the eligibility criteria.
- The provisional protected presence and employment authorization would be provided for three years after the date of enactment of the legislation.
President-elect Donald Trump had previously said that he would rescind “every single Obama executive order,” but he recently said when questioned about DACA recipients that “[w]e’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” and noted that “[t]hey got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.” Sen. Durbin said, “We want to reach out to the incoming administration and urge them if they take any action on DACA try to do it with this BRIDGE, to join us in passing this BRIDGE so we don’t have the disruption.” And House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that Republicans “would not pull the rug out from under” DACA recipients brought to the United States as children. “I will defer to the people who are focused on this on a daily basis to make sure they get this policy right, so that we don’t have any kind of ugly disruption that people are concerned about.”