Frontera Fund News

BRIDGE Act: Why the Battle Is Not Over

DACA-DREAMers have fought many battles. This will not stop now.  Photo credit: Frontera Fund
DACA-DREAMers have fought many battles. This will not stop now. Photo credit: Frontera Fund
Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

Years of courageous advocacy is paying off, sort of. The plight of young undocumented immigrants was not well known in 2004. But now, thanks to years of relentless work by DREAMers and their advocates, the first thing lawmakers thought of when facing the rise of the Trump administration was to protect them.

Candidate Trump used harsh language against immigrants and rallied the wild dreams of white nationalists with promises of a deportation force and the repeal of the executive program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA protects young immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors from deportation and gives them a work permit valid for two years.

No Republican or Democrat dare separate them from the massive CIR legislation, for political reasons

By early December, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced legislation called Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act, which would allow at least 740,000 young immigrants to keep benefits for three more years. Three other senators so far are co-sponsors of the bill: Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). The full content of the bill is not yet known, but it would provide a novel method of protection called “provisional protected presence.”

There are positive and negative aspects of the BRIDGE Act. Senator Durbin stated that negotiators of the legislation agreed to expand eligibility so that younger undocumented immigrants will be considered for protection. The bill is also contemplating additional confidentiality protections for beneficiaries. It will ban the use of home addresses and other personal information for deportation purposes unless there is a national security concern or felony charges. These protections are also meant to cover other undocumented immigrants like the beneficiary’s parents and other close relatives.

On the downside, the bill is meant to protect beneficiaries for only three years after the enactment. So, in theory, if the bill is passed in 2017 it will protect young immigrants until 2020. The bill is being proposed under the assumption that Congress will be ready to work on a Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) package in the interim. Good luck with that.

By all accounts, DACA has been a success. More than 741,000 individuals have registered, trusting their information to USCIS. They work, study or do both, contributing to the economy via their taxes and talents. DACA is a bandaid that helps undocumented youth live without fear and thrive rather than a permanent solution and a path to legalization, which the DREAM Act would have provided. The DREAM Act was approved in 2010 by the House of Representatives but never made it through the Senate.

Stringent background checks and high application fees would continue with the BRIDGE Act.

Young immigrants themselves are protesting the efforts to declare them “the good immigrants” in contrast with their parents and family members, who do not currently qualify for DACA or BRIDGE.

The BRIDGE Act will be a rebranding of DACA and will not provide a path to legalization. No wonder. The young immigrants in question are probably the most valuable piece involved in passing a comprehensive immigration package in the future. No Republican or Democrat dare separate them from the massive CIR legislation, for political reasons at the expense of the young.