Just last week, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream ad Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act, which would provide work authorization and relief from deportation to individuals who are eligible for the DACA initiative created in 2012 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Under DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, individuals who arrive in the United States as children must pass a background check and meet specific age, education, and United States residency requirements. Once such requirements are met, eligible individuals are granted a temporary reprieve from deportation and are then able to receive a renewable two-year work permit.
Since 2012, approximately three-quarters of a million individuals have come forward to take advantage of the career and higher education opportunities that are made accessible to them through the provisions of DACA. The BRIDGE Act would reinforce protections provided by DACA, while extending protection from deportation and eligibility of employment authorization to individuals who are not DACA recipients, but do qualify for the program.
Many immigration watchdog and policy organizations are applauding the announcement of the BRIDGE Act, deeming it a bipartisan effort to bar President-elect Trump from overturning DACA once he takes office in January. Due to DACA being introduced into law through executive action and not legislative means, the bill has been met with a great deal of contention over the years, especially from the President-elect, who has, time and again, sworn to overturn several of President Obama’s executive actions, including DACA.
According to Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, “The reason for this bill is simple: President-elect Trump has said he would cancel the DACA initiative, a statement that has sown fear and anxiety across the country. This bill is illustrative of the widespread bipartisan support for DREAMers and for reform that recognized the valuable contributions that they and millions of other immigrants have made to this country.”
While the provisions listed in DACA and now the BRIDGE Act aim to protect the recipients of the programs themselves, they are not the only group or entity that has received massive protections from such initiatives. According to the Center for American Progress, ending DACA would “wipe away at least $433.4 billion from the United States gross domestic product, or GDP, cumulatively over a decade,” inciting large-scale economic setbacks.
The bill will need to be reintroduced when Senators begin their new session in January. Until then, a great deal of bipartisan effort is gaining momentum in an effort to protect those eligible for DACA.