South Carolina’s U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham on Friday joined with a Democratic colleague in introducing legislation to protect some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children from deportation, even if the presidential act that has provided them with a path to residence is overturned.
The law, which was proposed by Graham, a Republican, and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is intended to protect children who entered the country under what is known as the DREAM Act. President-elect Donald Trump is expected to repeal the executive order of President Barack Obama used to create the system.
Graham said in a press release Friday that he thought Obama acted unconstitutionally in creating the act, and that the president-elect should repeal it.
“However, I do not believe we should pull the rug out and push these young men and women — who came out of the shadows and registered with the federal government — back into the darkness,” he said in the release. “Our legislation continues to provide legal status to them for three years as Congress seeks a permanent solution. These young people have much to offer the country and we stand to benefit from the many contributions they will make to America.”
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A White House statement describes the DREAM Act as giving “students who grew up in the United States a chance to contribute to our country’s well-being by serving in the U.S. armed forces or pursuing a higher education. It’s good for our economy, our security, and our nation.”
The act applies to immigrant children who entered the country before they were 16 years old and have lived in the U.S. at least five years. It requires applicants to pursue higher education or U.S. military service.
The legislation introduced by Graham and Durbin, along with U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., is designed to provide the applicants three years after repeal of the act to allow Congress to come up with a permanent solution.
“It’s my firm belief most Americans want to fix a broken immigration system in a humane manner,” Graham said.
The legislation is called the BRIDGE Act. It would “provide provisional protected presence and employment authorization for three years after the date of enactment of the legislation.”
Durbin said the act deals with one of the least controversial areas of America’s almost always controversial immigration issue.
“These kids are Americans at heart and deserve to remain in the only country they call home,” he said in the release.
Flake noted those covered by the law are in the country “through no fault of their own” and should be allowed “finish their education and continue to contribute to society.”
Feinstein said more than 350,000 people affected by the act live in her state. “We have a moral obligation to do all we can to shield them from deportation and keep their families together,” she said.