Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Kamala Harris reveals immigration plans which would give DREAMers a path to citizenship

Many of the country’s roughly 2 million DREAMers would gain a pathway to citizenship under a plan released yesterday by 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who would use executive action to break through congressional deadlock.

In a plan that reflects the creative legal thinking of California’s former attorney general, Harris would reinstate the DACA program and remove the age restrictions on applying. But unlike the original program, which gives work authorizations and provides deportation relief to unauthorized migrants, the plan would open-up a pathway to citizenship without requiring Congress to pass legislation.

“Congress must pass 21st century immigration reform, and Harris will fight to get it done as president,” the campaign wrote in a statement. Under the proposed plan, Harris would use executive action to grant DREAMers “parole-in-place” and retroactively issue them work authorizations.

That legal exception, carved out in the Immigration and Nationality Act but not typically used for DREAMers in the past, would allow them to apply for green cards through a direct family member or employer. Harris would also issue a rule clarifying that DREAMers were not at “fault” for living in the United States without legal status, removing another technical barrier that has prevented them from getting on the right side of U.S. immigration law.

It’s not clear how many DACA recipients would qualify to become permanent residents under the plan, but it would clearly resolve the plight of those married to U.S. citizens who, under current law, have to return to their home countries before applying to become legal residents ― a step that most refuse to take, because U.S. law also typically bars them from reentering the country for years if they had lived and worked here illegally in the past.

Outside observers who consulted with the Harris campaign to assess the viability of the proposal said it reflected a unique approach to work around the problems posed by America’s notoriously complex immigration laws. “It’s brilliant and original,” Frank Sharry, the executive director of immigrant rights group America’s Voice, wrote in an email to HuffPost. “The vast majority of Americans support a path to citizenship for DREAMers, but if Republicans continue to block it, this is the way forward. Harris deserves a lot of credit for creating a bold strategy for producing a long overdue breakthrough.