Bill to grant legal status to Dreamers introduced

Members of Congress are again seeking to enable undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to earn permanent legal status and, ultimately, citizenship by meeting certain requirements.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., introduced the Dream Act Feb. 4, with Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as the lead Republican sponsor. Durbin first introduced the proposal 20 years ago, but it has never received approval from both the Senate and House of Representatives in the same session.

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore expressed his gratitude to Durbin and Graham for reintroducing the bill.

Dreamers — the label for people in this category of undocumented immigrants — “are not an abstraction,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “They are people created in the image of God, who were brought here as children by their parents.

“Those who have lived as good neighbors and contributed so greatly to our country should be protected from the constant threat of having their lives upended,” he said in a release from the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition that attempts to address immigration policy from a biblical worldview.

Twice in the last decade, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting have approved resolutions on immigration reform that called for securing the border and establishing “a just and compassionate path to legal status,” with restitutionary measures, for undocumented immigrants already in the United States.

Nearly three-fourths of Americans support granting legal status to undocumented immigrants brought across the border as children, according to a June 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center. The poll showed 74 percent of Americans favor granting legal status, while 24 percent oppose it. By political party, 91 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans are in favor.

In introducing the legislation, Durbin said he will “continue fighting until it becomes the law of the land. This is a matter of simple American fairness and justice.”

Graham said he doubted the proposal would become law “as a stand-alone measure.” Instead, he thinks the bill will be “a starting point for us to find bipartisan breakthroughs” to provide aid to Dreamers and repair “a broken immigration system,” Graham said.

The measure, Durbin said, would permit undocumented immigrants brought to this country as minors to gain legal status and eventually citizenship if they:

  • Achieve a certain level of education, work lawfully for a minimum of three years or serve in the U.S. military;
  • Pass background checks and have not committed a felony or other serious crime;
  • Show an ability to speak English and a familiarity with American history;
  • Pay an application fee.

— Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.