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Lawmakers In Mountain West Join In Effort To Fix DACA

People marched in the fall of 2017 in Los Angeles, Calif., in support of immigrant rights.
Molly Adams
People marched in the fall of 2017 in Los Angeles, Calif., in support of immigrant rights.

Members of Congress are pushing to seal the deal on the status of immigrants who came to this country illegally as children.

The decision was supposed to be made by March 5, but that didn’t happen.

“No action was taken, no vote was taken, and so I think it’s pretty frustrating,” says Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Colorado.

He’s one of 239 representatives who sponsored a resolution that would force a vote on immigration, including the status of people currently protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The list of sponsors also includes Utah’s Mia Love, Idaho’s Michael Simpson, and Colorado’s Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis.

The lawmakers are using an obscure rule in the House of Representatives, the “queen of the hill” rule, that would require a vote on four individual bills. The bill with the most votes would win.

Two of the bills, the Dream Act and the USA Act, would provide DACA recipients with a path to permanent legal residence in the U.S. A third, the Securing America’s Future Act, would give them temporary status and would be paired with increased enforcement and restrictions on legal immigration. The fourth bill hasn’t been determined yet.

“I would hope that whatever proposal passes is a permanent solution, not just an extension of DACA, and I hope it does deal substantially with the border issues to where the president will sign it, not veto it,” says Coffman.

Credit Rae Ellen Bichell / KUNC

But Violeta Chapin, a law professor at the University of Colorado, is skeptical the move will result in actual legislation.

“I doubt that there’s any kind of legislative solution coming out of here anytime soon. I wish I was more optimistic about it,” says Chapin.

One of the bills, the Dream Act, has come up in Congress over and over again since 2001.

“The Dream Act has come up for a vote at least 16 times in Congress and it has failed every single time,” she says. “And I, quite frankly, think DACA will finally and eventually sputter out and die.”

She says DACA itself is now in a “zombified state,” partially alive only because judges in San Francisco and New York have blocked the Trump administration from rescinding the program.

While lawmakers keep shifting, Chapin continues to work with DACA recipients in Colorado to renew their temporary status, applications that the government will continue to process for the time being.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado. 

Copyright 2021 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.

Rae Ellen Bichell is a reporter for NPR's Science Desk. She first came to NPR in 2013 as a Kroc fellow and has since reported Web and radio stories on biomedical research, global health, and basic science. She won a 2016 Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Award from the Foundation for Biomedical Research. After graduating from Yale University, she spent two years in Helsinki, Finland, as a freelance reporter and Fulbright grantee.
Rae Ellen Bichell
I cover the Rocky Mountain West, with a focus on land and water management, growth in the expanding west, issues facing the rural west, and western culture and heritage. I joined KUNC in January 2018 as part of a new regional collaboration between stations in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. Please send along your thoughts/ideas/questions!
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