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House passes bill to offer ‘dreamers’ path to citizenship

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Tuesday passed a bill that aims to give up to 2.5 million undocumented immigrants a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

The legislation — a top priority for House Democrats — would offer protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and others who are currently without permanent legal status.

H.R. 6, called the “American Dream and Promise Act,” passed on largely partisan lines by a vote of 237-187. Seven Republicans broke ranks to side with Democrats to support the bill.

The vote comes after the Trump administration announced plans to end an Obama administration program to protect young immigrants — known as “dreamers” — from deportation.

The House legislation would also offer a pathway to citizenship for immigrants with temporary protections, known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

“Protecting Dreamers and TPS and DED Americans is about honoring the respect for family that is at the heart of our faith and who we are as Americans,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a press conference ahead of the vote. “There should be nothing partisan or political about this legislation.”

The Center for American Progress reports that North Carolina is home to 65,400 immigrants who are eligible for protection under the Dream and Promise Act. These individuals live with 149,700 family members; among those family members, 34,800 are U.S.-born citizen children.  Dreamers in North Carolina who are eligible for protection under the bill arrived in the United States at the average age of 8. Eligible immigrants and their households in North Carolina contribute $326,400,000 in federal taxes and $201,000,000 in state and local taxes each year.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, accused the Trump administration of putting immigrants’ “lives in limbo” and called the bill’s passage “a historic moment for the nation and for each of the 2.5 million individuals who have built their lives here and deserve a long-term legislative solution.”

In previous years, legislative efforts to grant protections to undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors have been bipartisan. But this effort appears unlikely to gain support in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate, given the partisanship that currently defines the immigration debate.

Many House Republicans warned that Democrats were wasting their time on legislation that’s dead on arrival in the Senate, while others warned that it encourages immigrants to break the law.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) portrayed the measure as “an amnesty bill to reward and incentivize the lawlessness besieging our country.”

The White House has issued a veto threat against the bill.

Robin Bravender is the Washington Bureau Chief for the Newsroom network, of which Policy Watch is a member.

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