July 28, 2020 - Issue: Vol. 166, No. 133 — Daily Edition116th Congress (2019 - 2020) - 2nd Session
UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--H.R. 6; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 133
(Senate - July 28, 2020)
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[Pages S4536-S4539] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--H.R. 6 Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, last month, in a landmark decision, the Supreme Court rejected President Trump's effort to repeal deportation protections for Dreamers. Those are the young immigrants who came to the United States as children. In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court held that President Trump's attempt to rescind DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was ``arbitrary and capricious.'' Those were the words of the Court. More than a month later, the Trump administration has refused to restore the DACA Program despite the decision written by the Chief Justice. The administration is now in open defiance of the Supreme Court when it comes to the DACA Program. The stakes are too high, both for the rule of law and the lives of these young Dreamers, for us to ignore it. Republicans and Democrats in Congress need to come together to compel the President to immediately comply with the Supreme Court mandate. On June 4, 2019, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6. In 2019, they [[Page S4537]] passed H.R. 6, the Dream and Promise Act. This legislation would give Dreamers a path to citizenship, and it passed on a strong bipartisan vote. The Dream and Promise Act has been pending in the Senate on the desk of Senator McConnell for more than a year. Last month, I sent a letter signed by all 47 Democratic Senators, calling on Majority Leader McConnell to immediately schedule a vote on the Dream and Promise Act. As of today, Senator McConnell has not even replied to this letter. Since Senator McConnell refuses to take any action to address the plight of these Dreamers, I will ask unanimous consent at this point for the Senate to pass the bipartisan Dream and Promise Act. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of Calendar No. 112, H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act; further, that the bill be considered read a third time and passed; and that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? The Senator from Oklahoma. Mr. LANKFORD. Madam President, reserving the right to object, Senator Durbin knows extremely well that unanimous consent is trying to get all 100 Senators to agree on something. Senator Durbin has done remarkable work for years advocating on the issue of immigration, and he knows exceptionally well what a difficult issue this is. He has been involved in countless debates and negotiations dealing with this issue, and there is certainly not 100 percent agreement on a House bill that passed in 2019 on how to solve immigration. So it is not going to pass. I certainly will object in a moment to this This bill far exceeds just dealing with DACA. As this body knows very well, there were four separate votes dealing with immigration in February of 2018. At that time, three of those dealt with the issue of DACA, and none of those actually were able to get 60 votes to be able to pass. The Trump administration was very engaged in those negotiations, and the White House itself brought a proposal to deal with DACA and multiple other issues with immigration. It failed to get 60 votes to move it in 2018, and the Court at that time swooped it up and said they wanted to be able to look at it. Now 2 years later, the Court finally responded, putting it back into the administration's hands and, quite frankly, back into Congress's hands. I will tell you, I wish the Court had not engaged in 2018 because there was a lot of engagement from the Trump administration, from the Senate, and from the House to be able to come to a point of resolution, but that has to begin again with bipartisan negotiations through a very complicated issue. President Trump has stated numerous times in public interviews and in private conversations that he wants to do something to take care of those kids in DACA, but that is not what this particular bill does. This particular bill far exceeds just the DACA population. In fact, the DACA population is defined as the group that was 16 years old and in the United States before June 15, 2017. This bill deals with 18-year- olds in the United States just 4 years ago and before, greatly increasing the population in the conversation. So this is not just a DACA conversation; this is a much larger bill than just a DACA bill in that sense. While I do agree we do need to continue bipartisan conversations--and President Trump has expressed a desire to engage in that--I think this is something the White House, the House, and the Senate should work out and not try to have all 100 Senators agree on something that comes to the floor today that has not gone through the proper debate and does not have all three bodies engaged in the process. With that, I would object. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard. The Senator from Illinois. Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, I regret the fact that the Senator objected. I am not surprised, but I understand his statement. I do hope that he feels as I do that we should be working in a bipartisan fashion to find an answer to this challenge. I have been working on this Dream Act for a number of years. Over 780,000 young people have signed up for DACA, and many more are currently eligible, and I would like to address their plight in just a moment here on the floor. But I thank the Senator from Oklahoma for the encouraging words to continue this effort. It is long past time for us to find a bipartisan answer to this situation. It was, in fact, 10 years ago when I joined with Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, on a bipartisan basis to call on President Obama to use his legal authority to protect Dreamers from deportation. President Obama responded by creating the DACA Program. DACA provides temporary protection from deportation of Dreamers if they register with the government, pay a fee, and pass criminal and national security background checks. I got started on this 20 years ago. I know you have to be patient to serve in the U.S. Senate, but I am losing my patience, not for my own plight and situation but for these young people. We know their circumstances. They were brought to this country as infants, toddlers, and little kids. They grew up here thinking this was home. It was home. They went to our schools. They pledged allegiance to our flag. They counted themselves as just another American kid. Then, sometime when they were teenagers, mom and dad sat down with them and said: We have a serious matter to discuss with you. It turns out you are undocumented. Technically, you are illegal in your presence in the United States, and let us warn you that at any moment you could be stopped, arrested, and deported. In fact, they might even drag many members of the family along with you if that circumstance should apply. Imagine growing up with that as a teenager, with all the things you worry about in adolescence, worrying about a knock on the door and deportation that might drag along other members of your family. That is how these kids lived. That is how they grew up. One of them came to my attention in Chicago. Her name is Tereza Lee. Tereza came to the United States originally from Korea through Brazil. She came to Chicago with her family on a visitor visa at the age of 2. Her family stayed. Most of them reached legal status, but they never filed any papers for Tereza. She didn't discover until she was in high school that she was an undocumented person in America. She just happened to have an extraordinary talent as a musician. She signed up for a program known as the MERIT Music Program. They taught her how to play the piano, which she had already started learning. She was found so phenomenal that by the end of her high school years, her instructor said: Why don't you apply to the great music schools of America--Juilliard or the Manhattan conservatory of music? She started to fill out the application with her mom and came to the section where it said ``citizenship,'' and she said: What are we supposed to put there, Mom? And her mom said: I don't know. We better call the office of Senator Durbin. They called us, and we learned for the first time of Tereza's situation. Under the law of America, despite the fact that this 2-year- old girl who arrived in the United States and now is 18 years of age-- under the laws of the United States, she was compelled to leave the United States for 10 years and apply to come back in. How could you do that? She didn't choose to come to this country. She didn't choose not to file for the right legal papers. She was the victim of this situation. So, on her behalf, I introduced the DREAM Act, and over the years, I have tried my level best in every way imaginable to pass it and make it the law of the land so that young people just like her can have a chance to earn their way to permanent status in the United States and ultimately to citizenship. I often fail to tell the end of this story, and I want to tell it because many people say: What ever happened to Tereza Lee? Well, the fact is, she was accepted by the Manhattan conservatory of music, and these wonderful people in Chicago--including my dear friend Joan Harris--said: We will pay for her education. She is so good. They did it. She finished. She married an American Jazz musician and [[Page S4538]] became an American citizen by virtue of that decision. They now have three children. She just emailed me last week. She just got her Ph.D. in music. She has performed in Carnegie Hall. She is an amazing young woman. She was the first Dreamer. That is not a unique story. I have come to the floor over 100 times and told stories just like that of young people brought to the United States who are remarkable and who could really add so much to this country. There have been some 800,000 Dreamers who have come forward to sign up for DACA, the program we discussed earlier. DACA, under President Obama, by Executive order, unleashed the full potential of many of these Dreamers for the first time. They could be public about their status, go to college, and do things they dreamed of. Many of them today are contributing to this country as soldiers and teachers and owners of small businesses and healthcare workers. More than 200,000 DACA recipients are essential, critical, infrastructure workers. That is not my term; that is a term of the Donald Trump Department of Homeland Security. That is how they are classified: essential, critical infrastructure workers; 200,000--a fourth of the DACA recipients. Among them are 41,700 DACA recipients in the healthcare industry--doctors, intensive care nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, and health professionals like the one I will talk about in just a moment. But on September 5, 2017, despite his assurances to me and so many others that he would take special care of these young people, these Dreamers, President Trump repealed DACA. Hundreds of thousands of Dreamers faced losing their work permits and being deported out of the United States to countries they didn't even remember. Federal courts stepped in and ordered the Trump administration to continue the DACA Program while they resolved in court whether the President's actions were proper. However, Dreamers who have not received DACA protection have been blocked from applying for this protection now for almost 3 years. For example, children cannot apply for DACA until they reach the age of 15. The Center for American Progress estimates that approximately 300,000 Dreamers have been unable to apply for this program since President Trump abolished it--or tried to--on September 5, 2017. Fifty-five thousand of those young people have turned 15 in that period of time. Since the Supreme Court decision more than a month ago, the Trump administration--the Trump administration--has failed to comply with Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts' order rejecting the repeal of DACA and requiring the Trump administration to reopen the program. The Trump administration is knowingly avoiding and violating the order of this Court. Two weeks ago, I joined with Senator Kamala Harris in leading a letter from 33 Senators to the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf. Our letter called on the Trump administration to immediately comply with the Supreme Court decision and reopen DACA for those who want to seek admission or at least protection under that program. So far, of course, we have not received a response to our letter, but that is not unusual with this administration. Ten days ago, a Federal judge issued an order for the Trump administration to follow the law and follow the order of the Supreme Court and begin accepting new applications for DACA. So earlier today, Acting Secretary Chad Wolf of the Department of Homeland Security finally responded. Here is what he said: ``The Department of Homeland Security will take action to thoughtfully consider the future of DACA policy, including whether to fully rescind the program.'' He said: ``In the interim, DHS will reject all initial requests for DACA.'' That is in open defiance of the order of the Supreme Court in the decision issued by Chief Justice John Roberts--open defiance by the President and his administration. What on Earth is this supposed to mean? If the Trump administration wants to repeal DACA again--and I pray that they won't--they can certainly try, and they can see if that action would be arbitrary, capricious, or would somehow withstand legal scrutiny. But under our system of separation of powers, the executive branch of government does not get to ``thoughtfully consider'' whether to comply with a Supreme Court order for some undefined period of time. Let's be clear. The Supreme Court rejected the repeal of DACA. That means DACA returns to its original status, and the Trump administration must reopen the program, and they must do it now. Instead, Mr. Wolf is saying the DHS is going to turn away 300,000 Dreamers eligible for DACA who have not had a chance to apply because the case has been in court. Mr. Wolf claims the administration is following the law, but it is notable that the Department of Homeland Security website still features a statement from a DHS official saying the Supreme Court's decision ``has no basis in law.'' After the Supreme Court decision, President Trump tweeted: ``I have wanted to take care of DACA recipients better than the Do Nothing Democrats, but for 2 years they have refused to negotiate.'' Well, here is the reality, and it isn't the President's tweet. The President has rejected numerous bipartisan deals to protect the Dreamers. Take one example--February 15, 2018. The Senate considered bipartisan legislation by Republican Senator Mike Rounds and Independent Senator Angus King. The bill, which included a path to citizenship for Dreamers, was supported by a bipartisan majority of Senators. It failed to reach 60 votes that it needed to pass the Senate because President Trump opposed it. Remember when he said that the Democrats were at fault here, that there were no bipartisan measures to solve the problem? Here was a bipartisan measure that he openly opposed. On the same day, the Senate voted on the President's immigration proposal. The Trump plan failed by a bipartisan majority of 39 to 60. Over the years, I have come to the floor of the Senate many times to tell the stories of Dreamers. These stories tell the whole story, as far as I am concerned, as to what is at stake with the future of DACA and the Dream Act. Let me tell you the story today about this young man, Juan Alvarez-- 125th Dreamer--whom I have come to the floor to introduce to the Senate and the people who are watching. He came to the United States from Mexico at 3 years of age and grew up in Compton, CA. A great student. From a young age, he wanted to get involved in healthcare, but because of his immigration status-- undocumented--he was unable to attend medical or nursing school. Instead, he went to the California State University in Long Beach, where he completed a bachelor of science degree in nutrition and dietetics. Today, thanks to DACA, Juan is working as a dietitian at an acute care hospital in Los Angeles. He sent me a letter, and here is what he said: I never imagined that I would be able to work in the field that I love and am passionate about--but thanks to DACA, that was made possible. Simply said, DACA has opened doors for me that I once thought were bolted shut and completely out of reach. Now, Juan Alvarez is on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic. He is part of this hospital's critical care team treating patients with coronavirus. Juan's role is to ensure that patients receive adequate nutrition during their hospital stay so they survive. Here is what he said about this experience: I am in constant fear of being infected and then infecting my family. But as an essential healthcare worker, I continue to show up to work and put myself at risk so that I can continue to serve my patients. While I do it to continue to help my patients and make sure that they are well nourished and strong enough to fight off the virus, I cannot set aside how worried I am myself. I want to thank Juan Alvarez for his service. He is an immigrant health hero. He is a DACA health hero. He is putting himself and his family at risk to save the lives of other Americans. He shouldn't have to worry about whether he is going to be deported. Will America be a stronger country if we tell him to leave or if we send him back to Mexico, which he doesn't even remember, or if we allow him to become a citizen and to use his skills and education and training to continue to help others? I think the answer is clear. Juan and hundreds of thousands of other Dreamers are counting on those [[Page S4539]] of us who serve in the Senate to solve this crisis that President Trump has created. I am sorry there was an objection to the Dream and Promise Act today. So long as I am a U.S. Senator, I will continue to come to this floor day after day, week after week, and month after month until the Senate gives Juan Alvarez a chance to become part of America's future. It would be an American tragedy to deport this wonderful and talented young healthcare worker who is literally saving lives as we meet today in the Senate. We must ensure that Juan and hundreds of thousands of others in our essential workforce are not forced to stop when the need for their service has never been greater. We must give them the chance they deserve to become part of the American family. I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from North Dakota. Mr. CRAMER. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered ____________________