Recapping HRC's Fight to Protect Dreamers

by HRC Staff

The fight to protect Dreamers continues to intensify as the Trump administration moves further away from a bipartisan approach.

Post submitted by former Senior International Policy Advocate Jeremy Kadden

The fight to protect Dreamers continues to intensify as the Trump administration moves further away from a bipartisan approach.

Confused by the latest developments? Let’s recap.

Dreamers are young immigrants who are unauthorized and were brought to the U.S. as children. Dreamers often do not know a home outside of the U.S. Polls show that a huge majority supports the government taking action to help Dreamers by halting all deportation proceedings and providing them with a pathway to citizenship. Dreamers came here through no fault of their own and often do not even speak the language of the country from which their families brought them.  It is estimated there are between 1.7 million and 3.6 million Dreamers currently in the U.S. and that as many as 75,000 of these immigrants could be LGBTQ.

In 2012, after years of congressional inaction, the Obama Administration took action by creating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed certain qualified Dreamers to obtain temporary legal status in the U.S. and remain here to continue their studies, work and stay with their communities. HRC supported President Obama’s action on Dreamers and has also endorsed the bipartisan DREAM Act (H.R.3440/S.1615), that would explicitly authorize Dreamers to remain in the U.S. and stop their deportation. HRC has also signed on to numerous letters in support of Dreamers and made the DREAM Act  part of the organization’s lobby day on Capitol Hill this past fall.

However, despite widespread support for the Dreamers, the Trump Administration announced on Sept. 5, 2017, that it would instead end the DACA program within six months and begin to take action to put Dreamers into deportation proceedings. Many in Congress on both sides of the aisle opposed this move and sought to either pass a “clean” Dream Act that would grant legal authorization to the Dreamers or include such legislation in a Congressional spending bill. Lawmakers have attempted to come up with numerous bipartisan solutions, some of which President Trump has appeared to support, only to withdraw his support soon after. (It was during one of those meetings with Congress that Trump made his infamous comment denigrating Haitians and Africans.)

With the DACA deadline looming in late January, the White House released a document detailing their demands. In exchange for White House support for providing legal status to Dreamers:

  • Congress would need to set aside $25 billion for a “border wall system” and other border security “enhancements”;
  • The U.S. must severely curtail family reunification, which allows family members of U.S. citizens to join them in the U.S., thereby allowing families to stay together;
  • The U.S. must end the Diversity Visa Program, which makes 50,000 immigrant visas available each year for immigrants from countries that had low numbers of immigrants to the U.S. in the previous five years; and
  • The U.S. must also take a number of other steps, such as reforming immigration courts, hiring more staff and preventing synthetic drugs from entering the U.S.

This latest White House proposal lays out its wish list for immigration reform, one that would sharply curtain legal immigration while dramatically increasing spending to prevent illegal immigration. Until the White House proposal, bipartisan House and Senate discussions were focused on a “small deal” that would address the plight of Dreamers in exchange for additional border security. The White House proposal goes well beyond the scope of the many discussions that have been happening over the past few months.

Over the past year, the Human Rights Campaign has long opposed many of the White House proposals and has instead supported a “clean” Dream Act. However, in the context of earlier bipartisan legislation for Comprehensive and Inclusive Immigration Reform (CIIR), in 2013, HRC made CIIR an organizational priority, laying out a number of principles that should be included in an LGBTQ-inclusive CIIR effort, such as:

  • Creating a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants in the U.S., as many as 250,000 of whom could be LGBTQ;
  • Protecting the health and safety of LGBTQ immigrants by promoting alternatives to detention for vulnerable individuals, such as transgender immigrants, and by requiring detention facilities to provide medical care that addresses the needs of LGBTQ detainees;
  • Improving the U.S. asylum system and eliminating the arbitrary one-year filing deadline that makes it far more difficult for persecuted LGBTQ people from abroad to claim asylum in the U.S.; and
  • Keeping LGBTQ families together by reducing the backlog in family reunification visas.

Over the next few weeks, Congress will continue discussions over the fate of Dreamers. HRC continues to call for the passage of legislation to address Dreamers and allow them to stay in the U.S. legally. A short term solution for Dreamers is still achievable this year. Should the White House want a comprehensive agreement, those negotiations are worthwhile but clearly could not be completed in the near term.

It’s time to help Dreamers now.