Immigrants anxiously waiting to see if Congress will act on legislation

Young immigrants throughout the country, including thousands in Kansas, are anxiously waiting to see if Congress will approve immigration legislation. 

Last week, the U.S. Senate failed to muster enough votes to advance legislation that would have helped immigrants affected by President Donald Trump’s decision to phase out and eventually end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. 

Recently, Gilbert Still, a teacher for Dodge City USD 443, which has a large immigrant population, said the inability to fix DACA and anti-immigration rhetoric from some political leaders was causing fear among many in his community. 

Still, a member of the Kansas Teacher of the Year team, said people fear being deported to countries “that they know nothing about,” or of coming home from school and finding that a parent or other relative has been deported. 

DACA, instituted through executive order by President Barack Obama in 2012, provided that minors who had arrived in the country without proper authorization could receive protection from deportation and could get work permits.  

Individuals were able to request DACA status if they were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, came to the U.S. before turning 16 and continuously lived in the country since June 15, 2007. Individuals also had to have a high school diploma, GED certification, been honorably discharged from the military or still be in school. DACA recipients could not have a criminal record. 

In September, the Trump administration announced it would no longer accept new DACA requests and it would phase out protections for current recipients with a March 5 deadline for Congress to act. 

The program’s possible termination, congressional failure to approve legislation and legal battles has left in limbo upwards of 1.8 million immigrants who are called “Dreamers” because they are said to be pursuing the American Dream. Unless Congress can approve a solution in the coming weeks, these Dreamers could face deportation. Reported estimates of the number of DACA recipients in Kansas range from 3,000 to 12,000. 

Of the three plans considered last week by the Senate, two were opposed by Trump and one was supported by Trump because it would have limited further immigration and increased funding to build a border wall. U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, voted against all three bills and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, voted only for the one supported by Trump. None of the plans got enough votes to advance. 

Politico is reporting that Moran and Republican senators John Thune of South Dakota and Rob Portman of Ohio are pushing a plan to provide $25 billion for border security in return for making the DACA program permanent but not providing a pathway to citizenship. 

And the March 5 deadline set by Trump has been put on hold by court injunctions in California and New York.  

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., has said he will introduce a bill next week that would extend DACA protections for three years and provide $7.6 billion to fund three years of the Trump administration’s border security proposal. Some have suggested a scaled-down immigration bill could become part of a must-pass spending bill to avoid a government shutdown on March 23. 

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