American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 Action Alert Background and Rationale
Why is it important to take action now?
For decades now, the path to legal immigration has left many people out. Among them are “Dreamers” and those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and people who have been granted Deferred Enforced Departure. All of these designations are executive-branch work-arounds that attempt to provide a temporary solution for people in desperate situations who do not fit the criteria to be able to access the pathways to legalization. They are permitted to work, but not permitted to apply for a more permanent status. For these people, there is no way to get permanent residency. They simply rely on their status being renewed if they wish to stay in the U.S.
Recently the situation has gotten more precarious. The current Administration has ended, or failed to renew, many of these temporary protections (and many court battles have ensued to attempt to reverse those decisions). It has left many immigrants and their families and communities confused, concerned, and vulnerable. And many people have been forced to return to contexts that are unsafe.
The Dream and Promise Act is the latest bill that attempts to bring a permanent, legal solution to these situations. Since 2001, various versions of the Dream Act have been considered, but never adopted, by Congress. For more in-depth information about this bill, see below.
What does this have to do with our biblical call?
“The situation of undocumented immigrants forces the church to face new complexities, as the church seeks to live out God’s call to hospitality. Whenever there are people living on the margins of society, it is the role of the church to see them, enfold them, and give them an opportunity to flourish. Whenever there is injustice or oppression, it is the role of the church to advocate for righting what is wrong. And whenever there are half-truths, hasty conclusions, and inaccurate assessments, it is the role of the church to tell the truth.” (Synod 2010 Report on the Migration of Workers)
There are numerous callings throughout Scripture to show love to “the foreigner,” grounded in the experience the Israelites had of being foreigners themselves. One example is, When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34).
The people of God are instructed to show tangible care for those who are vulnerable, including the foreigner in their midst. e.g. “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.” (Leviticus 19:9-10)
Sin is described as a lack of concern, and tangible care, for those who were in need: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49)
And the presence of Christ is described as experienced through encounters with “the stranger”: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:25-36)
What does Reformed Christian faith have to say about this?
Much of the general theological underpinnings of welcome and hospitality toward vulnerable immigrants can be found in the 2010 report to Synod on migration.
What has the CRC said about this issue?
The theological underpinnings of the calling to welcome various kinds of immigrants were articulated in a report to Synod 2010 on “the issue of the migration of workers as it relates to the church’s ministries of inclusion, compassion, and hospitality” (Agenda for Synod 2010, pp. 536; see Acts of Synod 2007, p. 596).
In response to the report, synod adopted thirteen recommendations on areas including education and awareness, ministry of mercy and compassion, and justice and advocacy (see Acts of Synod 2010, pp. 875-79).
“Churches are called to be hospitable to immigrants, but hospitality alone will not solve the myriad problems that plague the immigration systems in the United States and Canada.... Christians are right to advocate for immigration policies within a given nation that will be more just, fair, and generous and that will assist the nation in welcoming more strangers as citizens, not fewer” (Synod 2010 Report on the Migration of Workers).
How does this fit with the mandate of the Office of Social Justice?
The Office of Social Justice is mandated to “encourage and assist the CRCNA—its leaders, agencies, institutions, and members—to better ‘live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God’ (Mic. 6:8). It focuses primarily on the systemic causes of poverty, hunger, and powerlessness, as well as those social injustices to which synod or the Board of Trustees (BOT) has directed it. . . raising the voice of the CRCNA in advocacy for and with those who suffer injustice, through action alerts to our members, participation in advocacy coalitions, and public statements when appropriate.”
What is H.R. 6?
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-California) introduced the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6) on March 12, 2019 with 202 original cosponsors. The bill would provide Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients with protection from deportation and an opportunity to obtain permanent legal status in the United States, if they meet certain requirements.
Protections in the American Dream and Promise Act would allow nearly 700,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, as well as another 1.6 million eligible Dreamers brought to America as children, to stay in the U.S. The bill’s protections would also allow over 300,000 TPS holders and up to 3,600 individuals with DED to have the opportunity to remain in the country.
Protections for Dreamers
The American Dream and Promise Act would create a “conditional permanent resident” status valid for up to 10 years that would protect certain Dreamers – including DACA recipients – from deportation, allow them to work legally in the U.S. and permit them to travel outside the country.
To qualify for “conditional permanent resident” status, Dreamers would need to meet the following requirements:
Establish that they came to the U.S. before the age of 18 and have continuously lived in the U.S. for at least four years before the bill’s enactment;
Demonstrate they have been admitted to an institution of higher education, earned a high school diploma or an equivalent in the U.S., or are currently in the process of earning a high school diploma or an equivalent;
Pass government and background security checks, submit biometric and biographic data, demonstrate good character with no felony or multiple misdemeanor convictions, and register for the Selective Service (if applicable); and
Pay an application fee.
DACA recipients and other DACA-eligible Dreamers who still meet the requirements needed to obtain DACA would automatically qualify for “conditional permanent resident” status.
Recipients of “conditional permanent resident” status could apply to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs or green-card holders) as soon as they meet the following conditions:
Complete one of the following three tracks:
Graduate from a college or university, or complete at least two years of a bachelor’s or higher degree program in the U.S. (education track);
Complete at least two years of honorable military service (military track); or
Have worked for a period totaling at least three years and, while having valid employment authorization, have worked at least 75 percent of the time that they had such authorization. Periods in which individuals were enrolled in school without working while having valid employment authorization would not count against them (worker track);
Maintain continuous residence in the U.S.;
Demonstrate an ability to read, write and speak English and an understanding of American history, principles and form of government;
Pass government background and security checks, submit biometric and biographic data, and demonstrate good character with no felony or multiple misdemeanor convictions; and
Pay an application fee.
Dreamers could apply directly for LPR status if they meet both the requirements to receive “conditional permanent resident” status and to adjust to LPR status.
The bill would cancel deportation proceedings for Dreamers if they are eligible for “conditional permanent resident” status. It would also cancel deportation proceedings for young Dreamers under the age of 18 if they meet the requirements for “conditional permanent resident status” except that they are not yet enrolled in high school or an equivalent.
The bill would allow states to grant in-state tuition to Dreamers with “conditional permanent resident” status if they fulfill the state’s residency requirements by repealing Section 505 of Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, which may currently be used to penalize states that grant in-state tuition.
The bill would also allow Dreamers with “conditional permanent resident” status to receive federal financial aid, such as certain federal student loans and work-study programs, and to obtain professional, commercial and business licenses.
The bill would permit DACA recipients and other DACA-eligible Dreamers who were deported or who voluntarily departed from the U.S. on or after January 20, 2017 to apply for “conditional permanent resident” status abroad if they meet certain requirements, including having lived in the U.S. continuously for at least four years and having been deported or voluntarily departed solely because they were undocumented after overstaying a visa or crossing the U.S. border without authorization.
Recipients can lose conditional permanent resident status at any time if they commit a serious crime or fail to meet the other requirements set forth in the bill.
Protection for TPS Holders and DED Recipients
The American Dream and Promise Act would allow TPS holders and individuals with DED to adjust to LPR (green-card holder) status if they meet the following requirements:
Establish they have lived continuously in the U.S. for at least three years before the bill’s enactment;
Demonstrate they were eligible for or had TPS on September 25, 2016, or had DED as of September 28, 2016;
Apply within three years of the bill’s enactment and meet the admissibility requirements for LPRs; and
Pay an application fee.
The bill would protect TPS holders and TPS-eligible individuals from El Salvador, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, as well as individuals with DED from Liberia.
The bill would cancel deportation proceedings for TPS holders and individuals with DED if they are eligible for LPR status under the bill’s protections.
The bill would clarify that under current law an individual with TPS is considered inspected and admitted into the U.S. This provision would permit future TPS recipients to adjust to LPR status under certain circumstances, including when they marry a U.S. citizen.
The bill would permit TPS holders and TPS-eligible individuals who were deported or who voluntarily departed the U.S. on or after September 25, 2016 to apply for LPR status if they meet certain requirements, including having lived in the U.S. continuously for at least three years and having been deported solely because they were present in the U.S. after the expiration of their TPS status or, in the case of a voluntary departure, departed because of the DHS Secretary’s decision to end TPS designation for their country.
The bill would also permit individuals with DED who were deported or departed on or after September 28, 2016 to apply for LPR status if they meet certain requirements, including having lived in the U.S. continuously for at least three years and having been deported solely because they were present in the U.S. after the expiration of their DED status or, in the case of voluntary departure, they departed because of the DHS Secretary’s decision to end DED designation for their country.
The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide a report on future decisions to terminate TPS designations, including an explanation of any progress made by a country to resolve the issues that led to the TPS designation and the methods used by DHS to determine whether the country’s conditions have improved.
The American Dream and Promise Act would prevent DHS from deporting an individual who appears to be eligible for the bill’s protections or has a pending application.
The bill would create a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grant program for nonprofit organizations to screen and assist individuals apply for “conditional permanent resident” status or LPR status under the bill.