‘Yes We Can!’: Democrat-Controlled House Passes ‘Path to Citizenship’ Bill

By Patrick Goodenough | June 5, 2019 | 4:30am EDT
H.R. 6 lead sponsor Rep Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., speaks about the bill alongside House Democratic leaders ahead of Tuesday’s vote. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – More than eight years after the House passed a previous iteration of the Dream Act, the Democrat majority on Tuesday passed the latest version to cheers and chants of “Yes we can,” a day after the Trump administration indicated the president would veto it if it ever reaches his desk.

As voting got underway, visitors to the House began clapping, chanting and cheering, ignoring efforts from the speaker to restore order. Some members could also be seen joining in.

When the final vote result was announced – 237 votes to 187 – the gallery erupted, and more banging of the gavel ensued, again to little effect.

“The moment when it passed was like a rock concert,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted later. “The people’s cheers brought many, many members to tears. What a moment. This is why we fight.”

Democrat senators, including 2020 presidential hopefuls Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Cory Booker (N.J.), urged the Senate to pass the legislation, although a statement from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) alluded to the anticipated hurdles ahead.

“The Senate must act,” Schumer said. “This cannot be yet another piece of critical legislation buried in Leader [Mitch] McConnell’s legislative graveyard.”

Seven Republicans joined the Democrats in passing the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R.6). They were Reps. Don Bacon (Nebr.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Will Hurd (Texas), Dan Newhouse (Wash.), Chris Smith (N.J.) and Fred Upton (Mich.)

No Democrats voted no. (Five Democrats and four Republicans did not vote.)

H.R. 6 was introduced by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and has 232 Democratic cosponsors. If enacted, it would provide green cards and authorization to work to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as minors (“Dreamers”), if they meet certain criteria.

It would also allow some immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status to apply for permanent legal status. Some 2.5 million people could obtain permanent citizenship as a result.

There are ten current TPS-designated countries (El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) although three countries alone, El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, account for more than 90 percent of the total number of beneficiaries. DED status applies to Liberian immigrants.

Administration plans to terminate DED and some of the TPS designations – including those applying to El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti – have been challenged in court and are on hold.

Responding to House passage, several senators in the crowded Democratic 2020 presidential field welcomed the move and urged Senate action.

Warren said the House had sent an important message about protecting Dreamers and TPS/DED beneficiaries from Trump’s “racist, anti-immigrant agenda.”

“For the millions of DREAMers and TPS holders whose lives have been thrown into chaos by Mr. Trump’s bigotry, we have got to pass this legislation now,” tweeted Sanders. “I call on Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring this bill to the floor for a vote immediately.”

“I am so proud of House Dems for passing the Dream and Promise Act, which will pave a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers & immigrants with Temporary Protected Status,” tweeted Booker. “Senate colleagues, it’s time for us to show that we care about immigrant communities and do the same.”

On Monday the White House said in a statement the administration “strongly opposes” the legislation and indicated Trump would likely veto it if it makes it to his desk in its current form.

Among other things, it said the bill “would incentivize and reward illegal immigration while ignoring and undermining key Administration immigration objectives and policy priorities, such as protecting our communities and defending our borders.”

H.R. 6 would also continue the cycle of our broken immigration system that encourages people to break the law at the expense of those who follow the rules.”

“For example, it would explicitly ignore those who proactively committed immigration fraud, which would be a slap in the face to those who chose to enter our country legally and who are currently waiting to become American citizens.”

The Dream Act was first introduced in 2001, and the last time the House passed a version of it was in December 2010, the last time the House was under Democratic control, by a smaller margin than Tuesday’s vote – 216-198.

The initiative died in the Senate less than two weeks later, when Senate Democrats fell five short of the 60 votes needed to advance the House-passed bill. On that occasion three Republicans voted in favor and five Democrats opposed the measure.

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