The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 could benefit more than 30,000 immigrants with temporary protections or no legal status.
Immigrants, local activists and politicians plan to make their case on Monday afternoon at Boston City Hall. U.S. Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Katherine Clark, as well as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, will make an appearance.
House Democrats introduced the bill on Tuesday proposing extending legal permanent residency to immigrants with Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure, as well as conditional residency to certain undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children, more commonly known as Dreamers.
More than 12,000 people in Massachusetts have TPS, a program granted to foreign nationals in the U.S. whose native countries are marred by natural disasters, civil wars or other emergencies. More than half of TPS holders in Massachusetts are from El Salvador and Haiti, according to figures from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
An estimated 5,900 Dreamers in the Bay State have protections under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that protected eligible undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The legislation would extend protections to these groups as well as thousands more undocumented immigrants who were eligible for TPS and DACA but didn’t sign up.
“The average El Salvadoran has been in Massachusetts for over 20 years,” said Marion Davis, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. “They’re super, super established here.”
TPS holders from El Salvador, Haiti, Nepal and seven other countries have been in limbo as the fate of their program is decided in the courts. The Trump administration has tried to dismantle the program and send these immigrants back to their countries of origin.
What the bill covers
The legislation would offer legal permanent residency to anyone who had TPS or DED status as of Sept. 25, 2016, as long as they lived in the U.S. for three consecutive years.
For Dreamers, the path to legal permanent status is a little more complicated.
The bill would offer “conditional permanent residency" to these young immigrants if they arrived before age 18 and have lived in the U.S. for at least four years before the bill’s enactment. They must have a high school diploma or a GED and pass criminal background checks, among other requirements. Applicants with three separate misdemeanors or a felony would be disqualified.
To obtain permanent legal status, eligible Dreamers would need to have either a completed college degree, two years of of higher education in good standing, at least two years of military service or three years of legal authorization to work so long as they were employed at least 75 percent of the time.
The bill does not include any provisions for the U.S.-Mexico border wall promoted by President Donald Trump. Dreamers and young first-generation Americans have rebuffed previous deals from the White House claiming such a deal makes them “bargaining chips” for the wall and for enforcement practices that would target their undocumented parents.
Davis called the bill a “gold standard” compared to previous proposals, which had more eligibility requirements.
“This bill is the gold standard of what you would want,” Davis said. “It’s not comprehensive immigration reform. It doesn’t cover everybody, but the people it does cover, it covers very well.”
Massachusetts voters appear divided on immigration issues. A WBUR poll published in July found that two-thirds of Republican voters view Immigration and Customs Enforcement favorably, while nearly 60 percent of Democrats had a negative view of the agency. The poll, which surveyed about 800 people about family separations at the U.S.-Mexican border, found that the majority of Republican and Democrat respondents disagreed with the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance" policy and similar practices that led to family separations.
Whether the bill will make it to the president’s desk, however, depends on Senate Republicans. A dozen Senate Republicans joined Democrats in passing the resolution blocking Trump’s national emergency declaration, which he swiftly vetoed. Advocates said such support for the immigration bill would be a long shot.
“It is still very important to keep fighting to keep this going because the lives of thousands of people are up in the air,” Davis said. “They deserve peace of mind. They deserve to be able to stay and move on with their lives.”
Original story here.