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Dream and Promise Act is an important step forward for Congress

Jessica Garcia, a Dreamer from Los Angeles and member of CHIRLA, speaks at the unveiling of the bill. Behind her is lead sponsor U.S. Rep. Lucille Royce-Allard.

Today on Capitol Hill, House leadership unveiled H.R. 6, the Dream and Promise Act, which would provide permanent protection and a path to citizenship to Dreamers and people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

The bill, sponsored by U.S. Reps. Lucille Royce-Allard (D-CA), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY), builds on the DREAM Act, which was passed by the House in 2010, but fell to a filibuster in the Senate, and the American Promise Act, introduced in 2017 to protect TPS holders.

At a time when even modest proposals to protect immigrants tend to include major tradeoffs ­– from billions for a border wall, to punitive new enforcement policies, to cuts to family immigration – this bill marks a sea change: protecting immigrants without hurting other immigrants.

“The Dream and Promise Act is a breath of fresh air,” said MIRA Executive Director Eva A. Millona. “It sends a strong message to Dreamers and TPS and DED holders: We know this is your home. We know how much you contribute to this nation – and we stand behind you.

“I am particularly pleased to see this introduced as H.R. 6, a bill prioritized by Speaker Pelosi,” Millona added. “Countless pro-immigrant bills get introduced every session, but never gain traction. With leadership support, the Dream and Promise Act can and should pass in the House. We know it will face opposition in the Senate and from the White House, but it reflects the will of the people: An overwhelming majority of Americans want these immigrants to stay and be full-fledged members of our communities. This is a crucial first step in the right direction.”

The Dream and Promise Act would provide conditional permanent residency for 10 years to young immigrants who have been continuously physically present in the U.S. for 4 years prior to enactment of the bill, were 17 or younger when they arrived, meet educational criteria, and pass a background check. If they complete two years of college or military service, or work for three years, they can get a green card.

Dream-and-Promise-Act-LogoThe bill would also provide a green card to anyone who was eligible for or had TPS or DED as of September 2016 and had been in the U.S. for at least three years prior to enactment.

Tens of thousands of immigrants in Massachusetts alone could benefit. This includes about 5,900 who had DACA as of September 2017 and over 12,000 who had TPS as of late 2016, but also about 13,000 Dreamers who were eligible for DACA but were not enrolled when the program was ended, as well as thousands of young immigrants who’ve arrived since June 2007, the cutoff for DACA eligibility.

“This bill… is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel,” said Estefany Pineda, a UMass Boston student who was U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s guest last month at the State of the Union. “It not only provides hope for me, but also for my sisters, who are also Dreamers, and for my mom, who is a TPS holder.”

“I arrived here when I was 16, graduated with honors from my high school, and am now in college, studying molecular biology,” said Ivan H., a freshman at Pine Manor College. “Having the opportunity to have legal documentation would be like having the doors open of joys and blessings. If I have accomplished so much living in the shadows, imagine how much more I can accomplish living without fear of deportation, living as an American.”

José Palma, coordinator of the National TPS Alliance and co-founder of the Massachusetts TPS Committee, called the bill “a step in the right direction” and stressed the urgency of the crisis created by the termination of TPS, DACA, and DED. “We urge Congress to leave politics aside to avoid the separation of hundreds of thousands of additional families that have built their lives in this country. There is nothing temporary about our families’ lives. And no excuse to make millions more vulnerable to family separation. That should not be controversial for either side of the aisle.”

But Palma and other TPS advocates are also cautious in their optimism. Massachusetts TPS Committee co-founder Carlos Chacón said members of his group are “happy and excited to see a bill that offers a chance of permanent residency,” but they’ve also seen many previous proposals go nowhere.

“We know this is an uphill battle,” he said. “Even if the House passes this bill, we know it will get complicated in the Senate, and we know that too often, immigrants become pawns in electoral politics. So we’re celebrating this new effort, but we’re going to see how it plays out.”

Advocates for the nearly 5,000 Haitians with TPS in Massachusetts, meanwhile, said they were “thrilled” to see the Dream and Promise Act introduced. “It is about time,” said the Rev. Dieufort Fleurissaint, chairman of Haitian Americans United. “This legislation will put an end to the unjust suffering for so many immigrant families.”

“This bill reveals the true character of the United States of America, a country that has always been welcoming to immigrants and that shows compassion to the most vulnerable families,” added Dr. Geralde Gabeau, executive director of the Immigrant Family Services Institute (IFSI-USA) in Roslindale. “We implore Congress to act favorably, and put an end to the constant social and emotional pain that our immigrant families face every day in this country.”