U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said Wednesday on “Nevada Newsmakers” that Congress should fix the DACA problem by passing the Dream Act.
Cortez Masto said the Dream Act is a logical solution to deal with the almost 800,000 young Americans who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents but now are threatened with deportation.
“There is a bill there now, called the Dream Act, that is bipartisan,” Cortez Masto said. “It was introduced by Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Both Republicans and Democrats have signed onto it, and this is the answer.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday that the Trump administration was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and has asked Congress to find a solution in the next six months.
The 5-year-old policy has allowed DACA recipients to remain in the U.S. without fear of immediate deportation and has allowed them the right to work legally. Yet they could be subject to deportation if Congress does not come up with a solution in Trump's time frame.
Cortez Masto said on “Newsmakers” that most DACA recipients are hardworking, law-abiding and generally good citizens. She is a co-sponsor of the latest version of the Dream Act, according to a news release from her office.
“I have met with these kids in Nevada, both in Reno and Las Vegas,” Cortez Masto said about the DACA enrollees. “These kids are hardworking, they are putting themselves through school. They are sometimes working two jobs, just to pay for that school.”
The Dream Act (acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) includes a multiphase process for undocumented immigrants to legally remain in the U.S. It would first grant conditional residency and later permanent residency if the applicant can meet a list of qualifications.
It was first introduced in 2001, has been re-introduced several times but has failed to pass.
After the “Nevada Newsmakers” interview, Cortez Masto joined with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to implore Republicans in Congress to put aside partisan politics and pass the Dream Act.
“There are more than 12,000 DACA recipients right now in Nevada," Cortez Masto said on “Nevada Newsmakers.” “Collectively, they contribute over $500 million to our economy in Nevada.
“If we are going to deport Dreamers, and if we are going to deport undocumented individuals, our economy is going to take a big hit,” she said. “That is why businesses across the country and in Nevada support immigration reform, support Dreamers and support passing immigration reform to keep undocumented individuals in our state.”
Schumer said Wednesday that he would like to see a “clean” Dream Act go to the Senate floor for a vote by the end of this month. If that fails, he said he is considering attaching it to another piece of legislation.
"We’re prepared to attach it to other items this fall until it passes," Schumer said.
“We need the administration to be there and not play politics,” Cortez Masto said. "If the administration didn’t want to play politics, they would not have rescinded it (DACA program). They should have said, ‘Send me this bill. I can get behind it. This is something I want to do. I want to make sure we are doing everything we can.’”
When “Newsmakers” host Sam Shad noted Trump showed empathy for the DACA enrollees, Cortez Masto responded, “Empathy and actually protecting them and taking action to protect them are two different things. We've seen the president say certain things and then his actions are just the opposite.”
Ray Hagar is a retired political journalist from the Reno Gazette-Journal and current reporter/columnist for the Nevada Newsmakers podcast and website, nevadanewsmakers.com. Follow Ray on Twitter at @RayHagarNV.