U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is pushing legislation that would protect young immigrants from deportation under President-elect Donald Trump.
Durbin said Tuesday the proposed Bridge Act would apply to about 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children, known as “dreamers.” The measure would protect dreamers from immediate deportation and allow them to work in the country legally.
According to federal data, Illinois has the third most DACA recipients with almost 70,000 immigrants protected under the program.
The Bridge Act is an extension of protections President Barack Obama granted as an executive action in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Because DACA is not a law, Trump could end the program without Congressional permission.
Trump during the campaign trail pledged to abolish DACA, but he recently softened his position in an interview with Time magazine, saying he is willing to “work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud.”
Durbin said the only reliable way to keep the protections for undocumented youth is through congressional action.
“Otherwise, many of them will be forced to quit work, drop out of school, and some will face deportation,” he said.
The bill is sponsored by a bipartisan coalition including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Durbin and Graham have called the bill is a short-term fix and called for Congress to have a more robust conversation.
Durbin has mentioned Carlos Robles as one of the successes from DACA. Robles came to the United States when he was 14 years old. In 2010, he and his brother were arrested and in the process of being deported.
But Robles said thanks to the DACA protections, he and his brother were both allowed to continue living in the United States. Robles said he received a merit-based scholarship at Loyola University and eventually went graduate school at the University of Michigan.
Robles said he worries about his younger sister, who is still in college. If the Bridge Act doesn’t pass and DACA is discontinued, he’s concerned she won’t get a work visa and will have to move back to Mexico and away from the family.
“It’s discouraging to see such a reform isn’t widely embraced,” Robles said.
Durbin said he plans to push the legislation in Congress next year.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has also lobbied to keep the DACA program in place. Last week, the mayor met with Trump and gave him a letter signed by mayors throughout the country who support the protections.
Shannon Heffernan is a reporter with WBEZ. You can follow her at @shannon_h.