WASHINGTON, DC (March 18, 2021) Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Dream and Promise Act of 2021. The bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), and some Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker organization active in the immigrant rights movement – welcomed Congresses’ efforts to pass the long overdue legislation to create a permanent status for these communities but spoke out against the provisions excluding many immigrants who would otherwise be eligible.
“I want to thank our legislators for standing with us to pass permanent residency legislation for TPS, DACA and DED holders,” said Oscar Guevara, a TPS recipient from El Salvador and member of the New Jersey TPS Committee. “Most of us have spent half of our lives here and cannot safely return to our own countries. TPS holders need permanent residency for us as much as for our citizen children whose educations and lives remain in the United States.”
AFSC’s immigrant leaders and others across the country have been working hard to implement permanent protections like H.R. 6 for TPS, DED, and DACA recipients – meeting with elected officials, organizing call-in days, and holding local events. However, AFSC is critical of the long list of carveouts in the bill that would deny status to young immigrants with criminal convictions and even adjudications, and for alleged and highly subjective “gang affiliation.”
“Our communities need protection now. Immigrants, allies, and advocates have worked tirelessly for a permanent solution for all TPS, DED and DACA recipients. But we have yet to see the same tireless commitment from leadership in Congress,” said Peniel Ibe, Policy Engagement Coordinator for AFSC. “While we celebrate the prospects of permanent protections for many in our community, we are disappointed that our Representatives were unable to show bold and moral leadership by removing the new and unprecedented grounds of exclusion in the bill.”
The Department of Homeland Security can also deny applications from anyone they determine has participated in a “gang” in the last five years, is merely suspected of a crime, or falls within an extremely broad and subjective definition of “public safety” threats.
“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 and Promise Act of 2019. “Here in New Jersey, I have seen many young people suffer harsh consequences based on secretive and inaccurate gang affiliation criteria used to wrongfully profile them. These provisions undermine efforts to address racism in the criminal legal system and set a dangerous precedent for future bills. We want clear, timely and inclusive permanent residency and a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented people in the U.S.”
The bill now heads to the Senate. AFSC is calling on Senators to show leadership and ensure that the criminalization of immigrants within this bill does not become a standard for future immigration proposals. The majority of people in the U.S. have long supported a pathway to citizenship. AFSC is calling on Senators to act quickly on the bill, work to improve it, and then start advancing legislation that will provide a meaningful and inclusive pathway to citizenship for everyone living in the U.S.
# # #
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.