Newark, NJ- Young undocumented immigrants who applied for Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals face a lot of uncertainty about their status and are in danger of being deported if the program is eliminated with a new administration. The risks DREAMers face was more apparent this week after immigration advocates warned DACA recipients not to travel abroad. One group of Senators are hoping to alleviate the worries of DREAMers by introducing the BRIDGE Act, legislation that will extend the current benefits of DACA and offer additional protections.
Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), along with three co-sponsors: Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), introduced the Bar Removal of Immigrants who Dream and Grow the Economy Act on December 9, 2016, or the BRIDGE Act.
The Bridge Act offers relief from deportation and gives DREAMers the opportunity to apply for a driver’s license and work authorization after paying a fine just like DACA, but the legislation provides additional protections and expands the number of young undocumented immigrants eligible for the program.
Under the BRIDGE Act, the benefits of DACA include relief from deportation and the right to apply for work authorization and these benefits will be extended for three years. Young immigrants who are eligible for DACA but have not applied for the program will get the opportunity if the legislation passes. To be eligible for DACA, a young immigrant must pay a fee, undergo a criminal background check and meet other eligibility requirements.
Another bill, introduced by Senator Jeff Flake (R- AZ) on December 9, 2016, would offer relief from deportation and similar benefits as DACA, but incorporates provisions included in a previous bill.
The Securing Active and Fair Enforcement Act offers DREAMErs relief from deportation and the chance to work legally and would extend those benefits for three years. However, the SAFE ACT also includes provisions from Criminal Alien Deportation Act, which requires immigrants with criminal records be deported within 90 days.
Until a bill is passed, it is still unclear what the future holds for DACA recipients and immigration advocates are warning them not to travel until there is more clarity about their status, according to the Washington Post. Some DACA recipients have permission to travel out of the country, but there is concern that DREAMers will not be allowed re-entry with their status.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association supports the BRIDGE Act and opposes the SAFE Act because of the detention requirements and fast deportation requirements. AILA says it objects to the bill’s mandatory detention for immigrants accused of minor crimes and or individuals who have been exonerated and the fast rate of deportations.
The BRIDGE Act and SAFE Act are the latest efforts by lawmakers to alleviate the fears of DACA recipients who worry they could be targeted for removal. In November, Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) sent a letter to President Obama asking him to pardon all DREAMers so that they will have permanent relief from deportation.
DREAMers are a vital part of communities across the U.S. and in New Jersey. AILA notes that removing DACA recipients would cost the U.S. $430 billion over the next decade.
If you are an immigrant in Newark or another area of New Jersey and need help with a legal matter, contact my office at 973-453-2009. We can set up a short consultation to discuss your case. I understand the immigration system well and will give your case the attention it deserves.