At a Thursday press conference in Washington, D.C. that was live streamed via YouTube, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina announced that they are introducing a new version of the DREAM Act.

According to Durbin’s one-page summary, the new version of the DREAM Act would allow DREAMers “to earn lawful permanent residence and eventually American citizenship” as long as they meet the following requirements:

“Are longtime residents who came to the U.S. as children;
Graduate from high school or obtain a GED;
Pursue higher education, work lawfully for at least 3 years, or serve in the military;
Pass security and law enforcement background checks and pay a reasonable application fee; Demonstrate proficiency in the English language and a knowledge of United States history; and
Have not committed a felony or other serious crimes and do not pose a threat to our country.”

Despite indications that the White House would not support this version of the bill, Durbin did say that he and Graham had been meeting with White House officials about the new DREAM Act, the Bridge Act, and also about the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is facing more legal challenges and suggestions from the Trump administration that DACA will be rescinded.

“Let me just say that Senator Graham and I have been actively engaged with the White House for weeks, if not months, in conversation about DACA, the Bridge Act and the DREAM Act,” Durbin said. “We believe there are people within that White House who want to continue this dialogue and conversation, and we are going to work with them. We’re not giving up on, as Senator Graham said, appealing to the administration to join us in this effort. There are certain things which Republicans can’t do in the process. There are certain things Democrats can’t do. We’re trying to find that sweet spot, that middle ground, that takes care of the DREAMers and border security.”

Graham also expressed optimism that a Trump administration would support legislation that would protect DREAMers.

“I wouldn’t be doing this unless I believe there was a way forward to prevent a third wave [of unauthorized immigration],” Graham said. “But these kids are running out of asphalt. They’re running out of runway. They came out of the shadows at the invitation of their government. They’ve identified themselves and their legal standing is now in question. It becomes, I think, almost a moral decision. If you ask people to show yourself, identify yourself to your own government, and you do that, then you pull the rug out from under them —you take their legal status away— I just don’t think that’s what America is all about. I think most Americans, including most Republicans, have zero problem with allowing these kids to stay if they do the things I described: they’re not crooks and that they did come here as young people, no fault of their own.

“To the people who object to this? I don’t want you to vote for me, because I cannot serve you well,” Graham continued. “I just don’t see the upside of telling these kids that they have to go back, live in the shadows, or send them back to a country they have no idea about the country. If you send them back to their native country, some of them have never been there, as anything other than a baby. So I just think most Americans would support President Trump if we can work out a plan to deal with these kids and secure the border. I think most Republicans would. So what have I done? I have stopped letting 30 percent of the people who are about immigration determine how I behave. To those who feel like you should deport these kids, boy, I couldn’t disagree with you more.”

In 2010, during the Obama administration, an older version of the DREAM Act failed to pass the Senate. Immigration rights advocates are calling this new version of the DREAM Act the “strongest version” yet.

Minutes after the Durbin-Graham press conference, several organizations who have been advocating for comprehensive immigration reform were positive.

“We are encouraged by the steps Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, are taking to reach across the aisle and once again attempt a meaningful, bipartisan solution to address the threats to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program,” Janet Murguía, President and CEO of UnidosUS (formerly NCLR) said in a statement. “This is a time of uncertainty for many DREAMers in our community and we all should recognize what is at stake for our undocumented youth and their families.”

“It is encouraging to see members of Congress from both parties willing to work together to bring forward the Dream Act, which has always enjoyed broad, bipartisan support, “Kamal Essaheb, policy and advocacy director at the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement. “The legislation would provide a necessary, longer-term solution for immigrant youth who have fought for the ability to work, go to school, and live without fear of deportation. However, politicians who would try to hold the lives of immigrant youth hostage to get more immigration enforcement should be ashamed. Nor should any bill introduction serve to diminish the critical importance of DACA, which has fundamentally enhanced the lives of nearly 800,000 people, including my own.”

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, an Illinois Democrat who supports the Dubrin-Graham bill, added in a statement that “The President has said he opposes bipartisan legislation to allow the Dreamers to live here, which is a shameful statement to make, but one that is consistent with his determined effort to go down in history as the most anti-immigrant and anti-immigration American president.  He is going to say what he is going to say, but that does not dissuade us.  We have to keep fighting for what is right, what is just, and what the majority of Americans say they want, which is a legal immigration system that works, a way for those who have lived here or grown up here for years to earn legal status, and a system going forward that makes sure that everyone is playing by a clear set of rules that benefit America in the 21st century.”

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