American Dream and Promise Act of 2019

Floor Speech

Date: June 4, 2019
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Immigration


Ms. LOFGREN. Madam Speaker, today, we have the privilege of voting for the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019. This vote will bring Dreamers, young immigrants who came to the country as children, as well as individuals who have lived here lawfully for years under temporary protected status or deferred enforced departure, another step closer to being fully recognized as American.

Many of us, both inside and outside this room, have been working to advance this legislation for almost two decades. It is hard to believe that 18 years have passed since the Dream Act was first introduced, and 9 years have passed since the House last voted on it.

Yet, despite bipartisan support in Congress as well as the support of almost 90 percent of the American people, we have thus far been unable to get this bill enacted into law.

I am proud to stand here with so many colleagues who worked with determination over the years to bring this bill to the floor, as well as all the young people and their allies who persisted through setbacks and never gave up on their call for lawful permanent residence.

Madam Speaker, our work has paid off. Today, I urge my colleagues to support the American Dream and Promise Act.

In September 2017, President Trump announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, otherwise known as DACA, which provided temporary relief from removal to approximately 800,000 Dreamers. Over the next few months, the administration announced plans to terminate the TPS designation for six countries, as well as DED for Liberia. These actions have upended the lives of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers and TPS and DED holders.

They have come to the United States in different ways, and they have had different opportunities once they arrived. But today, they are united not only by the passage of time but also by the uncertainty of the future. Congress has the power to bring certainty to their lives by passing this act.

The bill provides a fair and reasonable opportunity for Dreamers to apply for lawful permanent residence with tough eligibility standards and discretion to consider unique situations on a case-by-case basis. The TPS and DED holders must continue to meet the strict eligibility requirements that already apply to them.

Based on comments made earlier during the rules debate, comments that I assume may be repeated during this debate, I feel the need to remind everyone just how tough this bill is.

To begin with, the bill applies criminal bars that apply to any other immigrant seeking admission to the United States. It then adds to current law by disqualifying anyone convicted of any felony or more than two misdemeanors.

On top of that, it authorizes the Secretary to deny individuals who pose a threat to public safety based on a single misdemeanor conviction, a juvenile delinquency adjudication, or proof of gang- related activities.

This is a very tough bill. Anyone who poses a threat to public safety is simply ineligible under this bill.

This legislation should not be controversial. The Dream Act has enjoyed bipartisan support in the past, with many of the same provisions. TPS and DED holders are integral parts of our communities and have been contributing to our economy for years, if not decades.

On this point, I also want to stress the important economic benefits that Dreamers and TPS and DED holders provide to our country.

Immigrants eligible for the American Dream and Promise Act own 215,400 homes in the United States and pay an estimated $2.5 billion in annual mortgage payments. If these individuals were to lose their homes, be deported, and default, it would certainly shock housing markets around the country and cause serious damage to cities, States, and the economy as a whole.

Eligible immigrants and their households currently contribute around $17.4 billion per year in Federal taxes and $9.7 billion per year in State and local taxes.

Annually, these households generate over $75 billion in spending power. That money helps to fuel local economies, creating new jobs and bringing new economic prosperity to everyone living and working with H.R. 6 beneficiaries across the country.

Without this bill, these individuals would lose their status and be kicked out of the workforce, creating a major hole in the American economy.

That may be why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has indicated it may make this bill a key vote for its scoring purposes and why hundreds of major business leaders are urging us to pass this bill in order to grow the economy and bolster our global competitiveness.

We must set aside partisanship and move this bill forward so that Dreamers and long-term TPS and DED recipients can finally have the peace of mind they deserve and so that our country can have the contributions that they are ready to make.

Madam Speaker, I urge a ``yes'' vote for the bill.


Ms. LOFGREN. Madam Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from New York (Ms. Clarke), the sponsor of the bill.


Ms. LOFGREN. Madam Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from Washington (Ms. Jayapal), the vice chair of the Immigration Subcommittee, and a fierce proponent of this bill.


Ms. LOFGREN. Madam Speaker, I yield an additional 15 seconds to the gentlewoman.


Ms. LOFGREN. Madam Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee), a long-serving member of the Committee on the Judiciary.


Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, may I inquire how much time remains on each side.


Ms. LOFGREN. The majority leader has been such a supporter of Dreamers for these many years.


Ms. LOFGREN. Garcia), a valued member of our Judiciary Committee.

Ms. LOFGREN. Mucarsel-Powell), a member of our committee.


Ms. LOFGREN. Escobar), a member of our Judiciary Committee.


Ms. LOFGREN. Bonamici).


Ms. LOFGREN. Lee), my colleague.


Ms. LOFGREN. Frankel), a leader in this movement.


Ms. LOFGREN. Judy Chu), a leader on this issue.


Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Phillips).


Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Espaillat).


Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to my colleague from California (Mrs. Torres).


Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Castro), the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Pelosi), my colleague, the Speaker of the House.


Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to close, and I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct a couple of things that have been said in the course of this debate.

Unfortunately, there are those in our country who try and claim that immigrants are criminals, and that is really incorrect. But for those who have said that this bill was loose for people who have committed serious crimes, it is simply not the case. We have tough restrictions in this bill.

Under the bill, an applicant is disqualified if any one of the following apply:

There is reason to believe the applicant is a national security risk;

The applicant has a felony conviction of any kind other than immigration status related;

The applicant has a single misdemeanor conviction involving moral turpitude with a sentence of more than 6 months, whether or not that has been served;

An applicant has two misdemeanors involving moral turpitude, regardless of sentence;

An applicant has more than two misdemeanors of any kind, excluding offenses that should not bar anyone, like minor traffic offenses; and

The applicant has a single misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence.

A lot has been said, I think, incorrectly, about the provision in the bill that says the Secretary's authority to deny applicants who pose a threat to public safety--and that is our failsafe in this--the Secretary can deny an applicant if he determines, or she, that the applicant poses a current threat to public safety, that somehow that is unworkable. But that is not true.

Let's be clear. Members of Congress are the only ones who can introduce bills and sign letters. But do we do every single aspect of that? Of course not. We have staff who assist us.

That is how that would work in the Department of Homeland Security. The staff would help, and they would prepare something for the Secretary, who would not be able to delegate it. And this is how it has worked in the Immigration and Nationality Act before.

I draw your attention to INA's 236(a), which is the mandatory detention of suspected terrorists at habeas corpus and judicial review. This section provides that this decision cannot be delegated, and yet it is workable because a lot of the staff work is done to present to the Secretary who, himself, must make that decision; similarly, with public law 110-301, the Libyan Claims Resolution Act, and 8 U.S.C. 1522 that provides nondelegable activities.

Now, there has been discussion that somehow the language that we have in the bill about databases means you can't use that evidence. That is simply incorrect.

Mr. Speaker, if we had wanted to prevent the Department of Homeland Security from using or referring to gang databases, we would have said so. The bill would clearly state that DHS could not use, rely on, or refer to gang databases. That is not what the bill says.

The bill says ``it shall not establish disqualifying gang participation.'' It can be evidence, but it can't be the establishment of that fact.

Now, why would that be the case? We value our law enforcement community. They keep us safe. They are hardworking. But these databases are populated by people way beyond law enforcement, people in school police, school security. They can result in people being mistakenly tagged as gang members when they are not.

I will give an example.

There was an audit done of California's gang database, CalGang. When the auditors went through, they found out there were 42 individuals who were under the age of 1 year old who had allegedly self-reported that they were part of a gang. Obviously, that was incorrect. So we would not want to make that the determining factor.

I want to mention a little bit about the comments that were made about DUI. DUI is a very serious matter, and no one wants to see individuals who are threats to public safety obtain relief under this bill.

First, anyone who is convicted by an offense punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of more than 1 year is barred from relief. So anyone who would commit a serious offense is barred.

If you have one conviction for DUI with a suspended license and you knew your license was suspended, you have committed a crime of moral turpitude, because section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act still applies.

Some have said that a single DUI conviction should be enough to disqualify you. Well, we have provided for that as well. If the Secretary finds that you pose a serious public safety threat, he can deny your application.

I will just say this. There are Members of the House of Representatives who have a single DUI. We didn't exile them from a single DUI, and I don't think if someone has turned their life around, we should exile them as well.

Now, I want to talk about the value of this bill.

It is interesting to hear the bill has been jammed, because we have waited for 18 years for this moment to pass this bill.

Mr. Speaker, over 400 diverse organizations, associations, and industry leaders support this bill, including United We Dream, NAACP, National Organization for Women, Interfaith Immigration Coalition, United States Chamber of Commerce, and National Education Association.

Yesterday, more than 100 business leaders, including Walmart, Koch Industries, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and General Motors all came out in support of this bill. They had full-page ads in The New York Times, asking us to please pass this bill.

H.R. 6 is the solution we have been waiting for. Passage of this measure is long overdue. Dreamers and TPS and DED recipients do not have the luxury of time. President Trump terminated DACA. He terminated TPS for six countries. He extended DED only through March 2020.

While the courts have stopped the President on DACA and TPS, these individuals are living on borrowed time.

We can vote on their futures now. To a great extent, we are deciding their fates, and we are also deciding our fates. Are we the America that made us great, who opened our doors to those who wanted to become Americans with us, who understood that those who have done no wrong should not receive punishment? I say that we are.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote in support of the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, and I yield back the balance of my time.