U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced a plan Friday to introduce the “BRIDGE Act” with Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), which would give three years of “provisional protected presence” to undocumented youth known as “DREAMers,” who are covered by President Obama’s 2012 executive action program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

If passed, the measure would temporarily shield an estimated 740,000 DACA recipients from deportation in the event that the Trump administration repeals Obama’s executive actions. During his campaign, Trump threatened to repeal Obama’s executive actions and deport all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. However, in a video last month summarizing his first 100 days in office, Trump made no mention of DACA or undocumented immigrants. And in recent comments to Time Magazine, Trump softened his tone on DREAMers, whom he described as being in “never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Key points:

  • The BRIDGE Act would provide a new status of “provisional protected presence” and employment authorization to DACA-eligible individuals for a period of three years from the date of enactment.
  • Current DACA recipients would receive provisional protected status until their DACA status expires and could apply for an extension of provisional protected presence prior to this expiration. Individuals eligible for DACA who haven’t yet applied would also be eligible to file for provisional protected presence.
  • Applicants would be required to pay a reasonable fee, undergo a background check and meet the same eligibility requirements as under DACA.
  • The bill would ensure that information individuals give to the government for purposes of DACA or the new provisional protected presence could not be used for immigration enforcement, except in national security or non-immigration criminal investigations.

Background: Durbin said the bill is needed to protect DREAMers while Congress works on a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

“The BRIDGE Act that we are introducing today is no substitute for broader legislation to fix our broken immigration system,” Durbin said from the Senate floor Friday. “This bill should not be tied to other, unrelated measures. Let’s take care of these young people who are in doubt about tomorrow before we debate the larger and equally important question about immigration reform.”

Graham tweeted on Friday that although Obama’s executive actions should be repealed, it would be unfair to “pull the rug out” from under undocumented youth who voluntarily identified themselves and registered with the government under the program.

Under the DACA program, undocumented individuals who came forward and proved they entered the U.S. as children and maintained a clean criminal record could obtain two-year renewable deferrals of deportation and eligibility to apply for employment authorization.

Durbin and Graham were members of the bipartisan Gang of Eight who pushed comprehensive immigration legislation through the Senate in 2013 before that bill ultimately failed in the House.

BAL Analysis: If passed, the bill would provide a congressionally defined, albeit temporary, status for DACA-eligible individuals as well as eligibility for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). Though there appears to be bipartisan support for protecting this category of undocumented immigrants, it remains uncertain whether such a stand-alone bill that does not address other immigration-related measures such as border security and enforcement would have enough Republican votes to pass.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact BerryApplemanLeiden@bal.com.

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