1. Update
  2. Immigrants & Refugees

Dreamer Protection: State of Play and How You Can Engage

By Hannah Graf Evans, January 19, 2018


There has been a flurry of activity over the past few weeks as members of Congress are faced with a narrowing window of time to address the fate of undocumented youth. A critical juncture is today, January 19, when two-thirds of Congress must sign off on a bill to keep the government funded through midnight.

Update 1/22/18: The government is open again through February 8, but there’s still a long way to go to address the same urgent challenges our country is facing. Tell Congress to enact a spending deal that includes four must-pass policies.

What’s the relation between spending and Dreamer protection?

Congress gave themselves until December to figure out how to reach a deal on a number of must-pass items, including DACA, while they worked on a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year. Instead of working on this through December, congressional leadership instead worked on the tax bill leaving all of these issues unresolved. They kicked the can until January 19 to give more time to negotiate on a deal on all these items. Now we’ve reached that deadline and Congress has still not gotten to a deal.

After months of delay, FCNL and the broader faith community has four priorities that must be addressed by Congress immediately including Dreamer protection, and funding health extenders, disaster relief, and domestic spending (at least) at the same level as the Pentagon. Many Democrats and a few Republicans have begun leveraging their votes for the short-term spending bill to ensure that Dreamer protections and critical funding priorities are part of a final, long-term deal.

Letter Faith Leaders Urge Immediate Action on Top Priorities 

Faith leaders from various traditions sent a letter to Congress on January 18 urging immediate action on must-pass priorities for our nation.

Emerging bipartisan frameworks

The Dream Act has widespread public support. Grassroots advocacy is incredibly important right now to demonstrate the broad support for enacting the Dream Act without any more militarization of immigrant and U.S. communities.

However, the White House and other members of Congress have outlined principles they would like to have included in any deal, which include both Dreamer protections and heightened boarder security. In response, a group of six Senators developed a bipartisan framework that answers some of those requests. Though we haven’t seen the text yet, we know that it includes a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, allows for temporary protection for parents of Dreamers, reworks the diversity visa to be available to recipients of Temporary Protected Status, and includes additional border enforcement – including a down payment on additional fencing, or “wall”.

It’s not a bill FCNL would have written, and we have concerns about certain provisions – but it’s a pragmatic, compromise solution that continues to build upon the urgency for the Senate to act. And we think it could pass with significant bipartisan support, giving certainty and protection to Dreamers, their parents, TPS recipients and communities that they call home. This framework is a good faith effort to answer to the necessary push and pull in a polarized environment, while staying as aligned as possible with the underlying values of protection.

Similarly another House bill was unveiled this week with 25 Republican and 25 Democrat original cosponsors which includes a pathway to citizenship, border enforcement, immigration judge teams, and direction to address some root causes.

The more lawmakers who coalesce around these compromise bills, the closer we get to enacting Dreamer protections and the farther we get from the enforcement-first approaches and proposals to gut legal immigration.

What could happen in the next 12 hours?

Last night, the House has passed a short term spending bill into mid-February that now the Senate must take up. The Senate may not have the votes necessary to proceed with funding the government without acting on Dreamer protections or addressing the other must-pass priorities. Meaning:

1) The government could shutdown (as of this moment this appears the most likely.)

2) They could scramble together an even shorter term spending bill (for a couple days) while they continue to negotiate.

3) They could fund the government for another few weeks and face the same issues in mid-February.

4) They could come to an agreement and address these must-do items for our nation. This is the best option and will only happen with your advocacy.

What can you do?

Keep calling. Keep pushing for your members of Congress to do everything in their power to have Dreamer protection be a priority. Ensure that your member of Congress is pushing their leadership to enact an immediate pathway to citizenship for Dreamers without undercutting other immigrants. Demand that they refuse to kick the can down the road any further as they are voting for additional immigration enforcement.

Regardless of what happens in the next 12 hours, a continued outpouring of constituent advocacy for bipartisan legislation will better set us up for ongoing negotiations and enacting protections into law.

Action Alert Congress Must Protect Dreamers Now 

Since the cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September, Capitol Hill has seen a flurry of activity.

Hannah Graf Evans

  • Legislative Representative, Immigration and Refugee Policy

Hannah Graf Evans leads FCNL's lobbying for compassionate immigration and refugee policies, with a particular focus on detention practices, the rights of border communities, and protection of vulnerable communities. Hannah served as co-chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition steering committee for three years and still plays an active role in pursuing shared policy priorities of the more than 50 faith-based member organizations.