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Texas Democrat leads renewed push in Congress to grant citizenship to DACA recipients

By Olivia Alafriz, The Texas Tribune

June 15, 2023

"Texas Democrat leads renewed push in Congress to grant citizenship to DACA recipients" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, is leading a renewed push in Congress to grant citizenship to migrants who were illegally brought into the country as children.

“These children know only America as their home. They contribute to society as taxpayers, small business owners, educators, and more. Citizenship is the only path forward,” Garcia said in a statement Thursday announcing her plans to file the American Dream and Promise Act.

Appearing Thursday at a Capitol Hill news conference with Democratic and Republican supporters of the bill, Garcia said the migrants, known as Dreamers, contribute to the nation’s economy.

“Yet they remain in limbo,” she said at the event, held on the 11th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama administration initiative that offered DACA recipients protection from deportation and permission to work.

The American Dream and Promise Act will mirror a bill that was approved by the Democratic-controlled House in 2021 but not acted upon by the Senate. Now that the GOP is leading the House, the bill’s prospects are unclear despite support from several Republicans.

U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar, R-Florida, said it was important to support DACA recipients, who are required to be in school or have a high school diploma, and to have no felonies or significant misdemeanors.

“You don’t have a criminal record, and you’ve been here for years, and you’ve been contributing to the economy, and you studied and you did not get in trouble,” Salazar said at the news conference. “You’re really part of the fabric of the United States. We love you. We welcome you and we want you to stay.”

In addition to creating a path to citizenship for DACA recipients by granting permanent resident status for 10 years, the proposal would extend full permanent resident status to migrants covered by Temporary Protected Status.

TPS beneficiaries are granted temporary legal residence in the United States due to unsafe conditions in their countries of origin. Last week, the Biden administration announced an extension of TPS designations for several countries, including Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Nepal.

The bill has bipartisan backing, but most of its support comes from Democrats. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, leader of the House Democrats, said the issue should transcend partisan politics.

“Standing with Dreamers, standing with TPS recipients, standing with those who deserve a pathway towards citizenship is an American issue,” Jeffries said.

DACA recipients have faced uncertainty amid legal challenges to the program, including a 2021 federal court ruling that said the program was improperly created. That ruling allowed current recipients to renew their DACA status but blocked new applicants.

Texas is home to more than 100,000 DACA recipients. Speaking Thursday, Garcia said Texas could lose 5,000 workers a week for two years if the program were to end.

“America supports Dreamers, Dreamers support America,” Garcia said.

Go behind the headlines with newly announced speakers at the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, in downtown Austin from Sept. 21-23. Join them to get their take on what’s next for Texas and the nation.

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