January 16, 2018

Kilmer Joins Bipartisan Immigration Reform Plan Which Would Create Path to Citizenship for Dreamers, Could Avert Potential Government Shutdown

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) joined with a group of the country’s leading Democrats and Republicans to co-sponsor a comprehensive, bipartisan plan to reform the nation’s immigration system and better secure the border, the main sticking points between the parties as they negotiate a plan to avert a government shutdown at the end of the week. If implemented, The USA Act would provide immigrants brought to the US illegally as children, commonly called DREAMers, a pathway to citizenship, and take major steps to secure the border. A leader of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) co-wrote the bill with Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), who represents nearly 800 miles of the US-Mexico border.

This comprehensive, bipartisan plan removes the fear of deportation for thousands of young people who have lived, worked, studied, and served in the military here in America, and gives law enforcement the tools they need to secure the border,” Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) said. “It comes just in time to keep the government open and shows that the government works best when both parties work together. I urge Congress to pass this bill and get moving on a long-term spending plan so the American people no longer have to worry about manufactured budget crises.”

The USA Act accomplishes four things identified by Democrats and Republicans as their shared top priorities for immigration reform. It establishes a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers which is almost identical to the one outlined in The Dream Act, strengthens border security, reduces delays on immigration cases in the judicial system, and delivers an aid package to Central America that addresses the underlying drivers of migration and cultivates philanthropic investments. Kilmer is one of the bill’s 50 co-sponsors which are split evenly between 25 Republicans and 25 Democrats.

In a press release announcing the legislation, Rep. Peter Aguilar (D-CA), the Whip of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said: “For too long, Congress has asked hundreds of thousands of young people to put their lives on hold while we play politics with their futures. This bill represents a real bipartisan compromise that will provide a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers, and allow for a reasonable approach to securing our border. One of my top priorities is to ensure that these young people can continue the lives they’ve built here, and the USA Act will do just that.”

Last week, President Trump signaled a willingness to work with Congress on an immigration reform package that provided DREAMers with a pathway to citizenship. After stripping DREAMers of protections offered to them by an Obama-era policy called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, earlier this year, President Trump said he’d support what he called “a bill of love” that would protect DREAMers and secure the border.

According to The Hill, President Trump said, “To me, a clean bill is a bill of DACA, we take care of them, and we take care of security.” Addressing members of his own party, he said: “If you want to take it a step further, I’ll take the heat. You’re not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform.”

The USA Act establishes a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children before 2014. This group of immigrants are often called DREAMers. The USA Act models the pathway to citizenship off of a well-known piece of legislation called The DREAM Act. Under the plan Kilmer co-sponsored, DREAMers would be provided Conditional Permanent Resident Status for eight years so long as they have no criminal records that resulted in a year of imprisonment.

During those initial eight years, DREAMers will be given the chance to apply for a Green Card if they meet certain qualifications including: serving in the military for the full term of an enlistment contract, completing at least two years in a bachelor’s degree program, completing  a postsecondary skilled-trade program at a vocational school, working at least 80 percent of the time for at least three years with a valid work authorization, or caring for US citizens or Green Card holders who are disabled, elderly or children. After five years with a Green Card, DREAMers would be able to apply for naturalized citizenship. DREAMers who marry US citizens would be granted citizenship after holding a Green Card for at least three years.

The bill also includes a plan to better secure the border while facilitating cross-border commerce. The USA Act would provide funding for additional border crossings and widen the lanes at some of the nation’s busiest crossings, speeding the flow of goods and people legally crossing the border. It will also increase the number of flight hours the US Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Unit can fly helicopters and drones to help spot illegal activity, and upgrade radios and other pieces of equipment that help Border Patrol Agents stop drug trafficking.

In a press release, the bill’s co-author, Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) said: “After multiple attempts to find a solution, it’s time to narrow our strategy. Our plan offers a permanent legislative solution for children who came here of no fault of their own – while achieving operational control of the border by 2020. Americans are tired of partisan gridlock. They deserve solutions. This is about Congress doing our job, and it proves that R’s and D’s are willing to work together to unite and secure America.”

The bill provides funding for two other immigration-related priorities. The first is funding for more immigration judges and staff to reduce backlogs in immigration court, so people caught up in the court system aren’t stuck in limbo indefinitely. The other priority is an aid package for Central American countries which includes funding for a US Coordinator for Engagement in Central America, targeted assistance plans for countries from which large numbers of children have emigrated, and grants from the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

The plan comes just three days from the expiration of the government’s continuing resolution, which is the authorization for the expenditure of funds that allow the government to operate. According to The New York Times, Republicans must work with Democrats on immigration in order to have their support on a deeply partisan Republican-authored spending plan which the Republicans cannot pass on their own, despite holding a majority in both the House and Senate and the White House.

Representative Kilmer has repeatedly called on Congress to pass a bipartisan, long-term spending plan, rather than kicking the can every two to three weeks. He has also expressed disappointment in the House leadership’s inability to work out a bipartisan, long-term budget and supports efforts to pass bipartisan appropriations bills through the committee process, which is referred to as “regular order.” He is a member of the Bipartisan Working Group and No Labels, two groups of Democrats and Republicans which meet each week the House is in session to work on bipartisan solutions to the nation’s most pressing challenges.