Thousands of South Asians may benefit if Congress acts on the Indian American VPâ€™s call.
Vice President Kamala Harris is backing efforts to give pathways to citizenship to undocumented â€˜dreamersâ€™ including thousands of South Asians, who came to the US as children, under an Obama era program.
The Indian American leader met with some recipients of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program granting them protection from deportation, on its ninth anniversary Tuesday.
The Biden-Harris administration and a number of Democrats have sought to enshrine the order in law, and to extend it to hundreds of thousands more who would now be eligible.
“I will tell you, we are here on this day, on the anniversary of DACA, and I’m here on behalf of the Biden-Harris administration to tell you this administration fully intends to do everything in our power to protect our dreamers,” she said. There will be no question about that.”
Harris went on to call for the Senate to pass bills that would give a path to citizenship to those eligible for DACA at the start of 2021, as well as to illegal immigrant farmworkers and those protected by Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
“Even with DACA in place, we know that dreamers live in a constant state of fear about their status and about their future. And it is critically important that we provide a pathway to citizenship to give people a sense of certainty and a sense of security,” she said.
“The House of Representatives, of course, has passed the American Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act,” she said. “We are calling on the Senate to do the same.”
Harris spoke hours after the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the American Dream and Promise Act â€“ which would grant legal status to illegal immigrants who entered the US as minors before January 1, 2021, passed a background check and either completed or enrolled in an education program.
While Democrats used the hearing to push for certainty for immigrants in the country, Republicans accused the Democrats of pushing amnesty at a time when the border was in crisis.
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris caused this crisis, and congressional Democrats are perpetuating this crisis by hiding from it and keeping the policies that arenâ€™t working,” said Republican senator Ted Cruz.
Democrats pushed back against the Republican criticism, choosing instead to point to the plight of those who they said had been left in limbo since Obama signed the DACA order and called on Congress to act.
“The challenges we face at the border are no excuse for inaction,” Sen. Dick Durbin said. “We are not going to ignore that reality, but this a reality as well.â€
About 3,000 youth from India had applied for DACA benefits during its first 17 months. By July 2014 about 2,500 of them were given work permits and a temporary reprieve from deportation, according to a report by the Migration Policy Institute.
While the Donald Trump administration had sought to dismantle the DACA program, President Joe Biden signed an executive order preserving it on his first day of office this year.
If the Congress takes DACA one step further by creating a pathway for citizenship, it could benefit 10 million illegal immigrants in the US, including 587,000 of Indian origin.