Industry leaders and employers cheered loudly across America Tuesday after the House of Representatives passed the “Dream Act” that has eluded passage in the halls of Congress for 18 years.
Next hurdle: the Senate. The legislation – the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, H.R.6 – could finally offer a legal path to residency to 2.5 million immigrants living and working in America. Most are Dreamers, who were brought here as children. Another 325,000 are recipients of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, who have high rates of employment, according to the Center for Migration Studies.
It is long past time for Congress to act, said Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President of the United States Chamber of Commerce, the largest lobbying group in the world that represents more than 3 million businesses.
“It is critical for both parties in both houses of Congress to come together on a path forward on immigration reform legislation,” Bradley said in a statement following the vote. “Our communities, businesses, and economy are all made stronger by the many contributions of Dreamers and TPS recipients.”
The win could be a hollow victory. The political divide over immigration is alive and well on Capitol Hill. Votes came down along party lines, 237 to 187. Only seven Republicans voted for passage.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News that the measure “will probably not” see the light of day in the Senate.
For Dreamer and longtime resident Reyna Montoya of Phoenix, that reality dampened the celebratory mood.
“It was definitely a very bittersweet moment as someone who is impacted,” said Montoya, 28, the founder of the non-profit Aliento in Phoenix that assists undocumented youth including providing scholarships so they can afford to go to college.
“It was like, Oh my god, this is great. It has potential to be an opportunity for me and other students,” said Montoya, who has a master’s degree in secondary education from Grand Canyon University. “But at the same time, you think about what’s ahead, that it still has to go through the Senate and then the president.
“That keeps my heart a little tense.”
Gang bangers and drunks vs. college students and soldiers
On the House floor Tuesday, Republicans portrayed the bill as a complete debacle, dubbing it a “political messaging” bill with no chance for ultimate passage.
The bill is so flawed, they said, it will allow criminals, gang members and convicted D.U.I. offenders to become citizens. More importantly, it does nothing to provide funding to deal with the crisis at the border according to opponents.
Democrats responded that the bill does indeed allow for the denial of “any applicant”. They talked about Dreamers in their districts who are college students, doctors, social workers, teachers, volunteers, police officers and fallen soldiers.
White House response: D.O.A.
In response to the House vote, the White House Office of Budget and Management issued a statement opposing the bill.
“H.R. 6 would incentivize and reward illegal immigration while ignoring and undermining key Administration immigration objectives and policy priorities, such as protecting our communities and defending our borders …,” the statement said. “If H.R. 6 were presented to the President in its current form, his advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”
Businesses pushing for passage
That didn’t stop businesses across America from heralding the news.
A sweeping range of industries strongly support a path for Dreamers, including recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. Companies like Apple, Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Facebook, Apple, Ebay, Hewlett Packard, Levi Strauss, GM, and Chabani. Industry groups like the Coalition for the American Dream, Business Roundtable and National Association of Manufacturers are urging Americans to contact their U.S. senators and the president.
Not only do Dreamers and TPS residents provide much needed workers, they own businesses, pay mortgages, buy new cars, and pay taxes, they said.