Kamala Harris for the People
June 12, 2019

Kamala Harris Proposes Plan to Put Dreamers on Path to Citizenship Through Executive Action

Plan Will Also Shield Millions of Immigrants from Deportation
Through Expanded Deferred Action

Senator Kamala Harris is releasing a plan to protect immigrant communities from the threat of deportation and put Dreamers on a path to citizenship through targeted executive actions. Under the proposal, Harris would use every tool available via executive action to remove barriers Dreamers currently face to pursue a Green Card, including requirements that individuals must have been formally “admitted” to the country and “authorized” to perform work.

“Every day in the life of a Dreamer who fears deportation is a long day. Dreamers cannot afford to sit around and wait for Congress to get its act together. Their lives are on the line,” Harris said. “As president, while I fight for Congress to pass 21st Century immigration reform, I won’t wait. I’ll take action to lift barriers Dreamers face to pursuing legal status and put them on a meaningful path to citizenship. These young people are just as American as I am, and they deserve a president who will fight for them from day one.”

There are four targeted executive actions Harris is laying out to eliminate obstacles Dreamers face that prevent them from applying for Green Cards: (1) She will create a “Dreamers Parole-in-Place Program” to formally admit Dreamers to the U.S. Similar programs exist now for victims of natural disaster or families of U.S. service members. (2) She will issue a rule clarifying that being brought to the U.S. as a child classifies Dreamers as eligible to apply for legal status because they were unable to maintain lawful status through “no fault of [their] own,” an exception in the Immigration and Nationality Act. (3) She will direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to retroactively grant work authorization to Dreamers. This will lift a barrier that currently prevents many Dreamers from adjusting their legal status: the fact that they have “accept[ed] unauthorized employment.” (4) She will issue a rule clarifying that separation from a close family member is presumed to be “extreme hardship” when individuals apply for a Green Card abroad.

We estimate these actions would provide more than two million Dreamers a path to citizenship if they have a congressionally-required family- or employment-based grounds to adjust status.

“It’s legally sound, groundbreaking, and bold,” said Frank Sharry, the founder and executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrant rights and immigration reform group. “In a polarized political environment where bipartisan legislation is hard to come by, this is a viable strategy that could produce a breakthrough favored by 80 percent of the American people.”

“This is a smart and creative plan that uses executive authority, in accordance with the law, to unlock solutions for Dreamers and keep families together,” said Stephen Legomsky, a Washington University School of Law professor and former Chief Counsel at USCIS. “These proposals would change the lives of millions of Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. as children and who are American in every way except on paper.”

“As a DACA recipient myself and an immigration rights advocate, I’m thrilled to see Kamala Harris continue her fight for Dreamers and immigrant families,” said Manuel Jimenez, a DACA recipient who lives in California. “This proposal is phenomenal!”

Additionally, upon taking office, Harris would immediately reinstate and expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by eliminating the requirement that Dreamers apply before they turn 31 years-old, extending protection to those who entered the country at age 17 or under (instead of 15 and under), allowing people under 15 to apply for protection, extending the two-year term of DACA protection to three years, and updating the cutoff date for entry into the United States.

Harris will also go even further by creating a deferred action program not just for parents of citizens or legal permanent residents but also for other law-abiding immigrants with strong ties to their communities. Her administration will consider factors such as service in the military, extended residence in the United States, and whether an individual has children, spouses, or parents who are beneficiaries of deferred action.

We estimate all these measures would impact nearly six million immigrants.

“Kamala Harris has put forward an innovative plan that would shield millions of law-abiding immigrants from the fear of deportation and, for the first time and create a realistic path to citizenship for many Dreamers. Bravo,” said David Leopold, Chair of Ulmer & Berne LLP’s immigration practice and former President and General Counsel of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). “This is the first time I’ve ever seen anybody with the guts to use the immigration law in this way,” he added.

“Kamala Harris gets it,” said Kerri Talbot, director of federal advocacy at The Immigration Hub. “There are millions of law-abiding immigrants with deep roots here who only want to continue contributing to their communities, but they’re forced to live in constant fear of deportation. This plan is designed to help them--and it will.”

“Immigration is the defining issue of our time, and all presidential candidates must be prepared to share their vision for the future,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center and the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund. “Sen. Harris’s bold proposal demonstrates that she is not afraid to use her authority to improve the lives of immigrant families and our communities.”

“It’s so inspiring to see such a bold proposal that builds upon a framework that brought hope to hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, and would bring hope to so many more,” added Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel.

The daughter of immigrants, Harris has been a career-long champion of Dreamers and immigrant communities.

  • As District Attorney in San Francisco in the mid-2000s, Harris prosecuted people who defrauded immigrants and her office held resource fairs for undocumented immigrants, explicitly telling them their legal status did not make them criminals.
  • As Attorney General, Harris joined multiple amicus briefs supporting President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, including DACA and DAPA. Harris also fought against the so-called “Secure Communities” program and told law enforcement they did not have to comply with ICE detainers. And while many in both parties said unaccompanied minors should be sent back to their home countries, Harris made supporting unaccompanied minors a priority – from sponsoring legislation to provide $3 million to nonprofits to offer legal services to unaccompanied minors at the border to joining amicus briefs to guarantee their right to counsel.
  • In the Senate, Harris co-sponsored  the Dream Act and introduced bills to allow Dreamers to work in Congress, reign in the unethical enforcement practices of ICE and CBP, and redirect $50 million from ICE enforcement to immediately reunite families separated at the border. Harris also whipped votes against John Kelly’s nomination to head DHS and stood up to Kirstjen Nielsen and other Trump officials for their mistreatment of Dreamers and immigrant communities. In 2017, she opposed spending bills that did not include protections for Dreamers. In her first floor speech as a U.S. Senator, Harris spoke on behalf of Dreamers, saying “[I] rise on behalf of California’s more than 250,000 Dreamers who were told by the federal government -- if you sign up, we will not use your personal information against you. I rise to say, the United States of America cannot go back on our promise to these kids and their families.”

Read the full plan at www.kamalaharris.org/dreamers.