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NM House members back bill for ‘Dreamer’ protections

When the Trump administration rolled out proposed fixes to the immigration system, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján admitted being disappointed that protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients weren’t included.

He told the Journal President Donald Trump had the authority to restore the protections for DACA recipients put into place by his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

But it may not have to come to that. On Tuesday, the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for eligible “Dreamers” who entered the U.S. under the age of 18 and who were continuously present in the U.S. for four years prior to the date of the bill’s enactment; and secure permanent residency for people with Temporary and Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), and after five years, those permanent residents would be eligible to apply to become citizens.

All three New Mexico House members voted for the bill.

“Months after President Trump cruelly forced these young men and women into chaos, House Democrats have fought to bring stability and certainty to thousands of individuals across New Mexico and the country who are Americans in every way that matters,” Luján said.

In voting for the bill, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland said the “broken immigration system puts Americans at risk of deportation when this is the only country they know as home.”

“The Dream and Promise Act protects these Americans so that they will be able to go to school, contribute to our communities and economy, and live and thrive outside of the shadows,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small said recipients “are active members in our communities.”

“The nearly 6,500 individuals affected by this legislation who live in our district (the 2nd Congressional District) bring millions of dollars into southern New Mexico,” she said.

Luján called on Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to put the legislation on the floor of that chamber for a vote.

He said several Republican senators have voiced support on the record for DACA, and said passage “was the right thing to do.”

The bill has the support of New Mexico’s two Democratic senators, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall.

“These long overdue measures would give certainty to millions of immigrants across the country whose lives are in limbo,” Udall said. “I commend the House for taking bipartisan action to pass this critical legislation. Now, it’s the Senate’s turn. I urge Majority Leader McConnell to hold a vote on the American Dream and Promise Act without delay – there is simply no excuse to bury this bill in his legislative graveyard.”

Heinrich posted on Twitter that “Dreamers can no longer live in fear of deportation or become to partisan interests. We must #ProtectTheDream.”

According to the Center for American Progress, New Mexico is home to 17,800 immigrants who are eligible for protection under the American Dream and Promise Act who can contribute nearly $100 million in federal taxes and $54 million in state and local taxes each year.

The House approved the measure 237-187. Only seven Republicans voted in favor of the bill.

LUJÁN CO-SPONSORING MEDICARE FOR ALL BILL: Luján joined 112 other Democratic lawmakers in backing the Medicare for All Act.

“Since my very first days in Congress, I’ve strongly held the belief that health care is a fundamental right for all, not a privilege for a few. No individual should ever be denied care or worry about costs when sick. But, for far too many Americans today, that is not the reality,” he said in an interview with the Journal.

“I wanted to make sure the legislation did not include the elimination of the VA or IHS (Indian Health Service),” the congressman said.

Scott Turner: sturner@abqjournal.com

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