Reflections on the Recent Senate Hearing on DACA and Dreamers

Reflections on the Recent Senate Hearing on DACA and Dreamers

By Jason Koh

Senator Dick Durbin, Gaby Pacheco, Miriam Feldblum, and TheDream.US Scholars at the Dream Deferred Senate hearing on Wednesday, May 8th, 2024.

This week, thousands of Dreamers are graduating from colleges and universities across the U.S. These graduates hope to join the nation’s workforce, leveraging their skills, knowledge, and determination for success to enrich our communities and contribute to the nation’s prosperity. However, the looming threat of DACA’s termination casts an ever-present shadow over their collective futures. The urgency for Congress to enact a permanent legislative solution for all Dreamers, including those with and without DACA or Temporary Protected Status (TPS), has never been more pressing.

Yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Dream Deferred: The Urgent Need to Protect Immigrant Youth, chaired by Senator Durbin, aimed to restart the conversation surrounding DACA and Dreamers. Despite political disagreements on the topic of immigration overall, during the hearing, there was a notable consensus across party lines regarding the necessity of passing a permanent legislative fix for Dreamers with or without DACA–echoing popular sentiments from all corners of the country.

Gaby Pacheco at Senate Judiciary hearing, "Dream Deferred: : The Urgent Need to Protect Immigrant Youth."

“More than 4,000 of our Scholars are now college graduates, and 94% of those with DACA and TPS are working. Two thirds are in business, health and medicine, and education. They are the embodiment of the American Dream.

Gaby Pacheco, CEO and President of theDream.US testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on DACA and Dreamers.

Senators from both sides of the aisle acknowledged the need for action. But frustrations persist, largely hindered by political gridlock, particularly on contentious issues such as border security.

“I have been in the Senate since 2015…and it’s much of the same. We haven’t done a damn thing… I have co-sponsored and supported efforts to have a pathway to citizenship for the DACA population. I also felt very strongly that we need to secure the border first… I’ve supported it for the reasons my colleagues across the aisle have.’” North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis speaking on the need for bipartisan solutions for DACA recipients and Dreamers.

These frustrations have boiled over in recent negotiations on immigration that have notably excluded Dreamers—marking a significant departure from past bipartisan efforts. It’s critical for Congress to build on the prevailing consensus on the importance of working to provide Dreamers with or without DACA with permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship.

Dreamers have been waiting a long time for a solution. California Senator Alex Padilla highlighted the urgency to pass legislation for Dreamers during the hearing, “It’s been more than two decades since the Dream Act was first introduced…in all that time Dreamers have also lived with uncertainty and fear because of their status and Congress’ inability to deliver for them.”

The past two decades have shown that bipartisan compromise is possible—stretching back to the original Dream Act introduced by Chairman Durbin and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch in 2001. Bills from recent years such as the SUCCEED Act, Senate Dream Act, and the House’s Dream and Promise Act have garnered support from both sides of the aisle. These bills offer potential pathways to permanent protection for millions of Dreamers, contingent upon rigorous eligibility criteria.

The Senate Judiciary hearing on DACA and Dreamers is an important moment to re-ignite the conversation on not only the contributions of Dreamers to this country but also the pressing need to pass meaningful legislation that provides permanent protections for all Dreamers, with or without DACA. As Gaby Pacheco, CEO and President of TheDream.US, testified at the hearing, “This is not just a policy issue—it’s a profound moral test of whether we hold true to the ideals we so proudly proclaim.”

The time for action is now.