DREAM Act of 2017 Introduced in U.S. Senate

On July 20, 2017, Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act of 2017. This is the latest iteration of this important piece of legislation, which has historically enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress. UnidosUS is encouraged by this most recent effort to reach across the aisle and once again attempt a meaningful, bipartisan solution for the many DREAMers living in our communities and making significant contributions to our nation.

The news comes at an important time. Last week we wrote about renewed threats to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy following a meeting between the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the administration’s top immigration enforcer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. The meeting followed a letter sent by 10 attorneys general threatening to present a legal challenge to DACA unless the administration takes steps to unwind the policy on their own accord. The Trump administration has until September 5 to decide on how it will respond.

Continue reading

NCLR Joins Civil Rights Groups in Demanding White House Preserve DACA Program

Photo: Office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

On January 18, in anticipation of expected executive orders on immigration from the Trump administration, NCLR signed onto a letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights urging the new president to keep the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program for immigrant youth intact.

The DACA program was established in 2012 under former President Obama to grant temporary deportation relief to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States before their sixteenth birthday. More than 750,000 individuals—known as “DREAMers”—have enjoyed the benefits of the DACA program. For many DREAMers who have grown up in the United States, this has been the only country that they have ever known.

Continue reading

Granting Extended Status to DACA Recipients is the Right Step Forward

We applaud the bipartisan bill legislation Senator Lindsey Graham (R-N.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced late last week that would provide provisional protected status for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients.

The 2012 program allows unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children—also known as “DREAMers”—who have completed or are enrolled in high school, and who have not committed serious offenses, to obtain temporary protection from deportation, as well as a work permit, renewable every two years. Since DACA’s implementation, almost 740,000 DREAMers have received temporary deportation relief.

Continue reading

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending May 15

Immigration_reform_Updates_blue

Week Ending May 15

This week in immigration reform: provision in support of allowing undocumented immigrants to serve in the military voted down; NCLR continues blog series on deferred action recipients; and recently released policy agenda highlights Latino priorities and the importance of the Latino vote.

Amendment to defense policy bill strips language in support of allowing DREAMers to serve in the military: This week the House of Representatives voted on amendments to and final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill to fund the military. In committee, a bipartisan group approved an amendment by Congressman Gallego (D-Ariz.) to encourage the Pentagon to consider allowing DREAMers to serve in the military. However, when the NDAA came to the floor late this week, Alabama Republican Congressman Brooks offered an amendment to strip out Gallego’s language. A NPR piece quotes Republican Congressman Coffman (R-Colo.): “I’m disappointed in my colleagues for fighting this. I’m not sure why they’re so opposed to this. I’ve been in the Congress side by side with people who are opposed to this, but yet they themselves didn’t want to serve. These young people ought to have the opportunity to serve.” The Brooks amendment passed 221-202. All Democrats who voted opposed the Brooks amendment, along with 20 Republicans. The NDAA passed the House this morning 269-151. Other House Republicans have voiced support for legislation to allow DREAMers to serve in the military, including Congressman Denham (R-Calif.), who re-introduced the ENLIST Act in April.

NCLR Blog features DACA recipient Jesus Chavez: This week’s installment of our ‘Living the American DREAM’ blog series tells the story of Jesus Chavez, a gay undocumented activist from California’s Central Valley. In spite of his undocumented status, Jesus found a way to attend and afford college, where he was active in student-led immigrant advocate groups. When President Obama announced DACA in 2012, he worked with the on-campus group Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education (RISE) to assist other students through the application process. DACA has enabled Jesus to pursue his passion: advocacy for the “undocuqueer.” He currently works at PFLAG, a LGBT civil rights organization. Recently, Jesus received the “Next Generation Award” from Metro Weekly, a D.C.-based LGBT magazine. With DACA, Jesus can continue advocating for his community. Jesus notes, “There are so many undocumented LGBT people who struggle, not only because they’re undocumented, but because they’re out and deal with lots of criticism. We need to keep fighting for what we think is right.”

NCLR releases policy agenda emphasizing Latino priorities: This week NCLR held a press conference to mark the release of a new report, “Investing in our Future: A Latino Policy Agenda for the 114th Congress.” The event featured speakers from the Center for American Progress, Latino Decisions and NCLR. The agenda outlines overarching Latino policy priorities in light of the upcoming 2016 elections. Our blog covering the release notes, “The guide provides policymakers with concrete steps they can take to improve educational and economic outcomes for Latino families, support enrollment in health insurance and move forward on passing comprehensive immigration reform. Latinos are a growing segment of the U.S. population and a critical part of our nation’s future workforce; their success is intrinsically tied to the success of our nation and our future economic prosperity.”  Find out more in our news release, read a summary, and read the report.

If DACA Works, Why Not Implement DAPA?

Living the Dream-01 (2)

By Yamid A. Macias and Janet Hernandez, NCLR

LAD_CarlaMenaCarla Mena, a young aspiring American living in Raleigh, North Carolina, who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012, continues to be a committed and engaged member of her community. She is a sitting member of the Wake Health Services Board of Trustees and spends most of her spare time empowering youth through her work on the Youth Council at El Pueblo, Inc. This NCLR Affiliate taught Carla about the importance of helping Latinos achieve positive social change by building consciousness, capacity, and community action, a belief that has been part of their mission for over 20 years.

Most recently, thanks to her hard work and determination, Carla was promoted to Bilingual Project Coordinator, a full-time position at Duke University’s Global Health Institute. Now that she is a permanent employee, Carla enjoys an array of benefits including, among others, health insurance and a well-deserved salary increase. With these benefits, she can not only increase monetary contributions to her family but also contribute more to the local economy. These opportunities, however, wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for her new status resulting from DACA.

Carla recalls that she first learned about DACA on June 15, 2012. This date had a special significance to her and her family, as it marked the 10th anniversary of their arrival to the United States. “I had recently graduated from college, and learning about this opportunity was a relief,” she said. “The first question I had was, when can I apply? My family and I hugged and cried from the emotion and the opportunity that this represented.”

Today those memories are bittersweet, particularly because Carla fears that her parents—as well as thousands of other parents in the same situation—cannot join her in living the American Dream.

Although Carla’s story represents the reality that hundreds of thousands of young DACA recipients currently face, it also corroborates an undeniable fact: DACA works. This program’s effectiveness suggests that the implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) could have an even greater impact on our country’s economy and workforce.

DAPA would provide opportunities for millions of skilled immigrants to work in fields where they can earn and contribute more. If DACA recipients have demonstrated in just three years what this program can do for communities like Raleigh, perhaps it’s time to consider something more stable. As Carla puts it, “Temporary programs are helpful, but a more permanent and more inclusive solution could be better.”  Carla’s story attests to the social and economic benefits of administrative relief, however, the overhaul of our immigration policies remain a critical task that congress must undertake.

Living the American DREAM: Ana Angeles

Living the Dream-01 (2)

By David Castillo, New Media Manager, NCLR

DREAMers_cantwaitActivism can take on many forms. For some, it takes the form of community organizing or leading demonstrations. For others, that activism might take place online or at the voting booth.  For Ana Angeles, a 30 year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient from Orange County, California, that activism has taken place in her home assisting would-be DACA recipients with their applications. It’s something she has taken great pride in doing. While she never set out to serve as an advocate, it was during the experience of applying for DACA that she realized she had something to offer her community.

Ana has lived in the United States since she was 11. Her parents both left jobs at a university in Mexico in search of better lives for Ana and her younger sister.

As a student in the United States, Ana flourished. Indeed, as an outstanding member of the TEACH Academy, a high school program that preps future teachers, she was eligible to apply for a full scholarship to Vanguard University, a private Christian institution.

Ana ultimately graduated with a degree in business and with minors in math, religion, and accounting. She was excited to begin her career, but like so many young people in her position, she had to put those dreams on hold because of her immigration status. While she searched for a job, economic realities soon set in and she was forced to take one at a fast food joint. This would go on until the president announced the creation of the DACA program.

DACA_sign

Since receiving DACA two years ago, Ana has found work at a local education company as a program manager. It was a promotion from the community marketer position she had before. Having DACA made her eligible for the more substantive, full-time position.

Ana’s willingness to help others navigate the DACA application process, which requires preparation, is what makes her advocacy so remarkable. She is very busy and has always assumed great responsibility as the oldest of her two other siblings. When she started her own application process, she was appalled at the huge fees many lawyers were asking for as payment to assist with applying. Convinced that these lawyers were just taking advantage, Ana decided she would save her money and apply by herself. Through diligent research and organization, her dedication and commitment paid off eight months later.

AllInRally6In the two years since receiving DACA, Ana has helped friends and family successfully navigate the process, but like many advocates, she still asks herself what else she can do. It’s a question that has come up a lot as her renewal period approaches. Ana is still figuring out how to answer that question, but whatever the answer is, her future certainly looks bright and includes the pursuit of an advanced degree.

In the meantime, Ana has a message for those in Congress who seek to undo DACA: “All we want to do is the right thing, to work, and to contribute. I love this country and all that it has given me. Just give us the chance to show you.”

Cutting Vital Tax Credits for Working Families Will Put Our Nation’s Children at Risk

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

ACAdiabetesblog_pic1_resizedBy any measure, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), created by President Gerald Ford, has been a resounding bipartisan success. President Ronald Reagan, who substantially expanded the credit during his administration, called it “the best antipoverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure ever to come out of Congress.” The equally successful and bipartisan Child Tax Credit (CTC) was enacted during the Clinton administration and increased under President George W. Bush.

As a nonpartisan organization, NCLR has worked with all of these administrations, as well as with Congress, on both the EITC and the CTC. These tax credits have helped lift millions of families out of poverty and have had a measurable impact on the poverty rate in this country. So why, then, are some Republican members of Congress pushing for proposals to scale back the EITC and significantly reduce the number of families eligible for the CTC?

One answer is that they think these cuts will only affect immigrants, since they are proposing to exclude recipients of immigration relief, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), from receiving the credits. Some lawmakers might even believe that this is “good politics.” But they are very wrong, both on the substance and on the politics. The greatest beneficiaries of these tax credits are children—American children. More than 90 percent of the children who would be affected by these proposals are native-born U.S. citizens.

Cutting credits to these kids is fiscally unsound. Eliminating them would cost the average family about $1,800, yet studies show that an increase of just $1,000 in family income raises a child’s math score by 2 percent and reading score by 3.5 percent. Common sense dictates that removing this source of income would have an equally dramatic negative impact.

Putting these children’s educational achievement and their family’s financial stability at risk doesn’t just shortchange the kids—it shortchanges the future of everyone in this country. One in every four children is Latino. The average age of U.S.-born Hispanics is 18. These kids are our future workers and the future contributors to Social Security, Medicare, and the rest of the country’s safety net. We should be investing in these young children, not punishing them.

ESEAbrief_pic

This is what makes these proposals also morally bankrupt, an ironic twist given the professed pro-family, pro-faith, and pro-traditional values of the Republican Party. No matter how one feels about immigration policy, it is simply wrong to punish children for their parents’ deeds, as the Bible notes in Deuteronomy (24:16) and again in Ezekiel (18:20). DACA participants—the so-called DREAMers—were brought to this country as children. Those eligible for DAPA are, by definition, parents of U.S.-citizen or legal resident children. Has our political culture become so ugly that we would go out of our way to impose harsh measures on children raised in this country for simply being born into the “wrong” type of family, as some proponents of these cruel proposals assert?

I hope not. But if it has, the lessons will be memorable. A major strength of the Republican Party has been consistent fidelity to key maxims: low taxes, hard work, family values, and reverence for Judeo-Christian traditions. If its leaders allow devastating tax increases aimed squarely at Hispanic American children simply to score political points, they do so in knowing violation of their core values.

We will remember that the party’s principles were betrayed by the hypocrisy of some of its members. The Latino community will remember that the interests of more than four million of its children were sacrificed so a few politicians could pander to extremists. We hope candidates remember this episode in 2016, when they experience a record turnout of Hispanic voters.

Living the American Dream: Karina Velasco

Living the Dream-01 (2)

By Janet Hernandez, Senior Civic Engagement Project Manager, NCLR

LAD5_pic1

Karina outside the U.S. Capitol during the recent National Latino Advocacy Days.

The most recent snow storm to hit the Washington, DC, area could not stop Karina Velasco, a 25-year-old DACA recipient, from meeting with her congressional representatives and advocating for administrative relief. Since congressional offices were closed during National Latino Advocacy Days, Karina rescheduled her meetings to ensure Congress heard her story.

Her persistence comes from years of advocating for an opportunity to experience the American dream. Throughout her life Karina witnessed her parents’ struggle, perseverance, and hard work. Her mother cleaned restaurants and houses while also being a full-time mother. Her father held two jobs in construction and housekeeping to make ends meet. Their encouragement and daily sacrifices helped Karina make the choice to focus on her education.

“My mother always told me that education was the path to success, so I decided to become a social worker to advocate for those in need,” said Karina.

In 2012 she celebrated the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) announcement, and gathered the paperwork needed to apply. She also helped fill out hundreds of applications for other DREAMers who were eligible to apply for DACA. Since Karina received DACA, she has obtained a driver’s license, finished community college, transferred to a four-year university, and obtained a job. Having the job allows her to enter the workforce, pay taxes, and help others.

“Without DACA it would have been harder to accomplish this success. I can finally contribute to my country’s economy and lift some of my parents’ economic burdens,” said Karina.

This week, Karina met with her elected officials to highlight how well DACA works by demonstrating that she is an example of the program’s success.

LAD5_pic3

Karina (left), Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Rosa, program manager for NCLR Affiliate Latin American Youth Center

Like Karina, there are millions of other young Americans who need Congress to stand up for administrative relief rather than deny them the opportunity to contribute to the country and pursue the American dream.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending March 6

Immigration_reform_Updates_blue

Week Ending March 6

This week in immigration reform: Nearly 300 community leaders participated in National Latino Advocacy Days,Congress funds the Department of Homeland Security; and NCLR continues a new blog series highlighting the impact of administrative relief.

Braving the weather, hundreds attend National Latino Advocacy Days: This Wednesday, nearly 300 Latino leaders from across the country participated in a day-long event promoting advocacy for Latino priorities. Attendees represented 24 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Check out tweets and photos from the event on Twitter with #NLAD15. Also, take a look at NCLR’s Facebook photo album on why Latinos vote.

CrowdwithSigns_NLAD15

Latino Advocacy Days followed the NCLR Capital Awards where NCLR recognized the work of Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and honored longtime immigration reform advocate, Frank Sharry. During her remarks, NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía warned the Republican Party about the political consequences of their rhetoric and policies that are adversely affecting not only the Latino community, but the entire nation’s best interests. You can see Janet’s speechhere.

Congress passes DHS funding bill without harmful immigration amendments: This week the House of Representatives passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security through the end of this fiscal year. This was after much political maneuvering and uncertainty. House Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the version of the bill that passed in the Senate, one that removed the harmful language defunding President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. NCLR applauds the passage of a clean DHS funding bill.

Also this week, House Republicans found time for a two-day markup of four-immigration related bills. These bills would promote a national racial profiling protocol, take an ineffective enforcement-only approach to fixing our immigration system, and would deny due process to some of the most vulnerable immigrants: child refugees. In a statement, NCLR’s Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro said “These bills are a conscious, premeditated attack against millions of American families and a direct blow at the heart of the Latino community. They are representative of the backward thinking that has replaced a solution-driven approach to immigration in Washington, and they show a disregard for the civil rights of all Americans.”

Second installment of our blog profiling deferred action success stories: This week’s “Living the American DREAM” blog post features Steven Arteaga Rodriguez, a 19-year-old from Houston and a DACA recipient who was brought to the United States when he was four months old. Steven got the chance to meet with President Obama to discuss how his executive actions have impacted the lives of immigrants and their families. DACA enabled Steven to search for work without fear of deportation. To continue the success of deferred action programs, Steven urged his fellow DREAMers to apply, saying “If we don’t apply, we don’t take this opportunity, we wouldn’t be where we are now. We’ve gotten this far, and it wouldn’t be fair for all those DREAMers that fought if, you know, not everybody applied.”

Five Questions for NCLR Capital Awards Honoree Senator Cory Booker

Photo: Senate Democrats

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) Photo: Senate Democrats

At this evening’s Capital Awards, we’re also honoring Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), for his work on reforming our juvenile justice system. The expected re-introduction of the “REDEEM Act” would help end the school-to-prison pipeline for young Latinos and give nonviolent criminals a better chance to find employment after they have served their sentences. We asked Sen. Booker about these efforts and about his rise to the U.S. Senate.

NCLR: What prompted you to decide on a career in public service?

Sen. Booker: My parents. There is a great saying by James Baldwin: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” My parents worked for IBM while I was growing up but they were both so involved in public service and they both made sure my brother and I understood that we had the privileges and opportunities we did because of the work, struggle, service, and sacrifice of others. So I had a great model and feel that no matter your occupation, we all should have a passion for serving others because we are the product of such commitments to service.

NCLR: As it relates to juvenile justice, what are some of the concerns you hope will be addressed by the “REDEEM Act”?

Sen. Booker: We must fix our broken criminal justice system and reforms to our juvenile justice system are a critical piece of the puzzle. We need sensible, pragmatic reforms to keep kids out of an adult system in the first place and protect their privacy so a youthful mistake does not haunt young people throughout their lives.

We must ensure that children who make mistakes do not get stuck in a life of crime and instead grow up to be productive members of society. The “REDEEM Act” gives youth the chance to get nonviolent crimes expunged or sealed so they can move on with their lives and protect their privacy.

It would also ban the very cruel and counterproductive practice of juvenile solitary confinement that can have immediate and long-term detrimental effects on youth detainees’ mental and physical health. In fact, the majority of suicides by juveniles in prisons are committed by young people who are in solitary confinement. Other nations even consider it torture. Taken together, these measures will help keep kids who get in trouble out of a lifetime of crime.

NCLR: You’ve talked about increasing tech engagement and access for all, including communities of color. NCLR supports expanding broadband access for all, as well, when presently just 53 percent of Hispanic Americans report having this type of Internet access at home. Can you mention some ways the “Community Broadband Act” could address these gaps?

Sen. Booker: High-speed Internet access is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity. By breaking down arbitrary barriers and allowing local communities to make meaningful investments in broadband, the “Community Broadband Act” aims to help bridge the digital divide wherever it persists. Sadly, the technology gap tends to be greatest in minority and low-income communities. It is my hope that the “Community Broadband Act” will create strong, economic alliances between municipalities, community members, businesses, and nonprofits, all of which stand to gain if localities provide broadband to their residents when existing broadband options are nonexistent or prove inadequate. The act will also bring a new level of affordability to broadband, which will enhance the online experience and allow for greater innovation and enable local governments to find tech solutions to some of our toughest problems.

NCLR: After President Obama announced his executive actions on immigration in November, you stated that “Congress must act to fix our broken immigration system and implement a long-term solution.” What are some of the points you would use to help make the case for permanent immigration reform?

Sen. Booker: I am encouraged by President Obama’s November 2014 executive actions on immigration. They were an important first step, but more needs to be done. At a time of great crisis in our country, when families are being separated, our nation is losing revenue, and we have an immigration policy that fails to accomplish our common goals; we must implement a comprehensive strategy that secures our border and strengthens our economy.

I support comprehensive immigration reform. Today, we have 11 million undocumented people living in the United States. They are hiding in the shadows, which presents a danger to our national security and harms our economy. It is unrealistic, and poor public policy, to simply deport hardworking undocumented immigrants, many of whom do critical jobs in our economy that help us to prosper.

We must pull individuals out of the shadows, not to grant them amnesty, but allow them to pay taxes and start on a path toward lawful immigration. Congress must act to fix our broken immigration system and implement a long-term solution—nothing less than America’s economic success, national security, and fundamental values are at stake.

NCLR: You have been very active in promoting pathways for women and people of color to become entrepreneurs as a way to foster economic growth. What specific national policies do you aim to champion to achieve this?

Sen. Booker: Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the economic engines of our nation, spurring innovation and creating jobs in our local communities. While entrepreneurship can offer great opportunities to build wealth or realize an innovative idea, too many women and minority entrepreneurs face steep hurdles to business ownership.

Access to capital is a critical issue for women and minority small-business owners and often serves as a significant barrier to business ownership. Recognizing these challenges, I have worked with the U.S. Small Business Administration to examine disparities in lending to women and minority-owned businesses in the agency’s 7(a) and 504 loan guarantee programs. Furthermore, in an effort to boost participation and awareness of these and other lending resources, last year I hosted five small-business forums across New Jersey that convened a broad spectrum of entrepreneurs and connected New Jersey business owners to federal and local resources. Going forward, I plan to continue leading this type of outreach to link business owners with the resources necessary to access capital and create jobs.

As a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, I have also championed legislation to help drive startup resources to new areas. Currently, growth accelerator programs and other resources that support business startups are concentrated in Silicon Valley and even New York City. Forty-eight states across the country lack resources critical to startup growth, and legislation I introduced last year—the “Startup Opportunity Growth Accelerator (SOAR) Act”—would support a Small Business Administration fund to expand the impact of these resources by bringing accelerator programs to new communities. I plan to reintroduce this legislation this year.

Follow #NCLRCAPS15 on Twitter for live updates throughout the evening from the 2015 NCLR Capital Awards!