US bishops thank House for approving immigration bill

Washington D.C., Jun 5, 2019 / 04:54 pm (CNA).- The chairman of the US bishops' migration committee welcomed Tuesday a vote in the House of Representatives passing a bill that would provide a citizenship path for some brought to the US illegally as children, among others.

The House passed the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 by a 237-187 vote June 4. Along with some “Dreamers”, who were illegally brought to the US as minors, it would allow a path to cizenship for qualified holders of Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure.

“This is a big step for Dreamers and TPS holders who have called the United States home but have been working and living in uncertainty for years,” said Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin. “Dreamers, TPS and DED holders are working to make our communities and parishes strong and are vital contributors to our country. We welcome today’s vote and urge the Senate to take up this legislation which gives permanent protection to Dreamers, TPS and DED holders.”

The bill would grant qualifying childhood arrivals 10 years of legal residence, after which they could receive permanent legal residence with two years of higher education or military service, or three years of employment.

TPS is an immigration benefit that allows persons who are unable to return safely to their home countries because of armed conflict, other violence, natural disasters, or other extraordinary conditions to remain in the United States while the situation in their home country resolves. It protects them from deportation and grants them permission to work. DED protects from deportation persons from countries or regions facing political or civic conflict or natural disaster, and allows them to work. The status is currently given only to Liberians.

Those with TPS or DED could apply for lawful permanent residence if they have been in the country for at least three years and have passed background checks. After five yearrs of lawful permanent residence, they would apply for citizenship.

Voting for the bill were the Democrats in the House, as well as seven Republicans.

Similar bills have been introduced in the Senate, but according to Felicia Sonmez at the Washington Post “it is unlikely that the Senate will consider the bill.”

Last month, Bishop Vásquez and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, president of the US bishops' conference, voiced concern over a separate immigration plan from the Trump administration which prioritizes immigration status based on merit rather than family ties.

“We oppose proposals that seek to curtail family-based immigration and create a largely ‘merit-based’ immigration system,” they said. “Families are the foundation of our faith, our society, our history, and our immigration system.”

The administration's proposal would significantly reduce the current family-based portion of the immigration system, instead focusing on applicants with high education and skill levels.

The plan would not provide legal status for those brought to the United States illegally as children. Nor does it provide a clear path forward for TPS holders.

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