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AFSC urges Congress not to undermine Dream and Promise Act

TPS holders, their families, and supporters take part in a rally and march in Washington, D.C.  Photo: Carl Roose / AFSC

Amendments would weaken legislation’s efforts to protect immigrants

Washington DC (May 22, 2019)  Today, the House Judiciary Committee will mark up sections of the Dream and Promise Act (HR 6) as the Dream Act of 2019 (HR 2820) and the American Promise Act of 2019 (HR 2821). The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker organization that supported the original bill – is urging lawmakers to reject harmful amendments that would weaken the legislation and hurt immigrant communities.

The Dream and Promise Act, as it was originally introduced, is a step towards offering long-awaited permanent protection for recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). It would allow qualified immigrants to apply for permanent residency with fewer roadblocks. The bill also stops the detention and deportation of immigrants that should be protected by TPS, DED and DACA but have been left vulnerable by the administration.

 “A permanent solution for TPS, DED and DACA recipients is long overdue,” said Peniel Ibe, Policy Associate for AFSC. “Congress needs to pass clean and fair legislation that keeps families and communities together without succumbing to amendments based on fear, discrimination, or criminalization of entire categories of people.

AFSC has been working hard to save TPS for all countries and has also advocated for permanent protections for DACA-eligible immigrants and TPS and DED holders. The introduction of the Dream and Promise Act came in response to grassroots organizing and the tireless advocacy across the country by immigrant communities, including TPS, DED and DACA beneficiaries, and their families and allies.

The original Dream and Promise Act centers the humane treatment and respect of immigrants. However, many organizations fear that the original bill will be changed as it makes its way through Congress. Already, the manager’s amendment includes provisions that could bar people from protection because of juvenile infractions and alleged gang affiliations – provisions that are influenced by xenophobic perceptions of immigrants as public safety or national security threats. This would further criminalize immigrants of color based on their contact with a discriminatory criminal legal system.

“The Dream and Promise Act as introduced is a good start to repair our punitive immigration system, but the inclusion of language related to gang affiliations upholds racist and anti-immigrant sentiments,” said Itzel Hernandez, Immigrant Rights Organizer for AFSC’s Red Bank, New Jersey office and potential beneficiary of the Dream Act of 2019. “Here in New Jersey, I have seen many young people suffer harsher consequences based on secretive and inaccurate gang affiliation criteria used to wrongfully profile them.”

AFSC has also urged Congress not to include any amendments that would reduce access to legal migration or block immigrants from entering the U.S. as have been proposed in past debates about similar bills.

“We welcome the move toward more just and humane immigration policies, but fear that they will be undermined by compromises that would lead to more detention, deportation or militarization of our border communities,” said Kathryn Johnson, Policy Advocacy Coordinator for AFSC. “We are calling on Congress to act immediately and protect our TPS, DED and DACA eligible community members but without adding provisions that will expand the Administration’s deportation force or exclude more people from accessing relief.”

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social systems.