A Bridge to Coming Forward and a Pathway to Citizenship: DREAMers, DACA and the Bridge Act

The rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric has the potential for serious policy ramifications. Concerns that the budget (or the continuing resolution to maintain funding without a new budget) would have provisions for a down payment on a US-Mexico border wall, allocate funds for the hiring of 500 new Customs and Border Protection agents and 1,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, and increase the detention and removal of undocumented immigrants have been assuaged for now. Potential budgets down the line could contain these very provisions, or similar ones. Within these big-picture immigration enforcement concerns is concern for the status of DREAMers.

DREAMers are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, and who have lived and grown up in the United States for much of their lives. In 2012, recognizing the need to bring some stability and security to their lives, President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, in which over 750,000 DREAMers have tried to participate. DACA allows these young people to receive deferred deportation and short-term visas to work and live openly in the only country they call home. In order to be eligible for the program, DREAMers were required to fill out forms with a lot of personal information, providing a robust list of undocumented people in the United States, and who could be at risk of deportation should those lists be used in that manner. That these people, who came forward to be able to live openly in and contribute to society could now face deportation is the height of injustice.

The Bridge Act (S. 128/H.B. 496), introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) in the Senate and Rep. Coffman (R-CO-6) in the House, is a bipartisan piece of legislation which would allow DACA recipients and those eligible for DACA to apply for “provisional protected presence” and work authorization for a three-year period. The bill would also impose restrictions on the sharing of information of those who participate in DACA and those who have provisional protected presence applications with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for purposes of immigration enforcement. The Bridge Act does not offer a pathway to citizenship, but it does allow DREAMers the ability to continue working and participating in American society without fear of deportation. On May 2, 2017, as part of the Religious Action Center’s Consultation on Conscience, almost 800 Reform Jews traveled to Washington D.C. to learn about advocacy and urge their members of Congress to support this piece of legislation. You can amplify your voice on this important issue by urging your Members of Congress to co-sponsor the Bridge Act.

The Torah commands, “When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (19:33-34). This teaching permeates Jewish tradition and is echoed 35 times in the Torah – the most repeated of any commandment.

DACA participants and applicants who came forward should not have to face deportation. As we work toward comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, we can pass the Bridge Act to ensure that there is some protection for DREAMers.

To continue this work, learn more about the RAC’s National Immigrant Justice Campaign and how to join!

This blog originally appeared on the RAC's blog.

Max Antman is 2016-2017 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Max is originally from Evanston, IL., where he is a member of Beth Emet the Free Synagogue. Max attended the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign.

Published: 5/18/2017

Categories: Reform Movement, Our Social Justice