By Jordan Valerie
The DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001 during the 107th Congress. It failed to pass with Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress and George W. Bush in the White House.
In 2006, Democrats took control of both the House and the Senate. Yet even with the support of George W. Bush, the DREAM Act still failed to pass.
In 2008, Democrats increased their majority in Congress and Barack Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to enter office with a majority of the popular vote since 1976. Yet even under a Democratic trifecta with a filibuster-proof 60-seat Democratic majority in Senate, Congress still failed to pass the DREAM Act.
Now, 17 years after the DREAM Act was first introduced to Congress and two presidencies later, both Democrats and Republicans are scrambling to pass the comprehensive immigration reform they have promised the American people for decades.
On one side, Republicans have caved to the far right, letting the Freedom Caucus and Sen. Tom Cotton take the reigns. Their ultimate goal, as Race Forward strategist Rinku Sen wrote, is the “reordering of 50 years of immigration policy that is transparent in its hostility toward immigrants of color.” Trump’s border wall has turned from a joke into a legitimate policy proposal from the Republican Party, and their immigration restriction goals have expanded from deporting undocumented Americans to radically restricting legal immigration.
On the other side of the aisle, congressional Democrats, despite giving lip service to the DREAM Act, are betraying DACA recipients by caving to the empty promises of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Despite successfully blocking the January 19 CR that would have continued funding the deportation of DREAMers, within just 69 hours, Democrats caved, with all but 16 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus abandoning DREAMers by voting to reopen the government despite having secured no deal regarding DACA.
Now, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democratic leaders are urging undocumented Americans and allies to be “patient” and trust Democrats to protect DACA recipients. All while an average of 122 DACA recipients lose their status each day. For 17 years, DREAMers have been promised a solution by both parties, to no avail, whether it be under a Republican or Democratic trifecta.
The truth is that neither party truly stands for undocumented Americans. The incumbents in Congress care more about re-election than justice and equality for their fellow Americans. That is why we need a Brand New Congress, one that will take swift and effective action to end the deportation machine that tears apart undocumented families and finally provide a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented Americans who are just as much a part of our society as anyone else. The men and women who claim to represent us in Congress have failed miserably to do so. We need change, and we need it now.
Jordan Valerie is a Brand New Congress volunteer, filmmaker, journalist, political activist, and proud queer woman of color dedicated to civil rights, civic engagement, diversity, and watching a movie a week.