RENO, Nev.– In September, the Trump administration rescinded the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals Act, which will begin to phase out beginning March 5, 2018 through December 2018. Congress has until March to reach a decision, though some leaders are calling on Congress to find a compromise sooner. In Nevada, the response to this deadline has the two main political parties pushing for separate acts.
There are currently three acts circulating at the federal level aiming to replace DACA: the Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow Our Economy (BRIDGE) Act; the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act; and the Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act.
The Nevada Democratic Junior Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, along with the three Nevada Democratic Representatives, Dina Titus, Jacky Rosen, and Ruben Kihuen have all signed on to the bipartisan DREAM Act. Senator Cortez Masto is a co-sponsor of this bill.
On the Republican side, both the Nevada Republican Senior Senator Dean Heller and Nevada Republican Representative Mark Amodei have proposed two separate acts. Heller is behind the BRIDGE Act and Amodei the RAC Act.
Alejandra Hernández Chávez, 23, is one of two people in northern Nevada working closely with DACA recipients during the transition period. She is the administrative assistant organizer for Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada, or ACTIONN, the organization working to push the DREAM Act through Congress. Jahani Mazariego, 25, is the University of Nevada, Reno social services coordinator, preparing students for what will happen next.
S.1615: The DREAM Act
Chávez and her organization are seeking support from the Republican Party in hopes of passing what she calls a “clean” DREAM Act, which means the acts passes as is, no corrections or alterations to its content.
Additionally, she said she believes this particular act would be an actual pathway to citizenship that DACA was not.
“People don’t realize that DACA was kind of like putting yourself in a hole and the government kind of protected that hole as long as you paid for your renewal,” said Chávez. “But there was no pathway to citizenship; it was literally deferred deportation.”
Nevada’s Republican leaders have not objected to the proposed DREAM Act, but have yet to sign. Chávez feels that both the RAC and BRIDGE acts are only going to temporarily fix the concerns of citizenship.
According to a recent article from the New York Times, DACA covered approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants. Chávez said the DREAM act would cover around 2.1 million.
“DREAM Act is just the one that would cover more folks and is the fairest one, because people wouldn’t have to do anything out of the ordinary,” said Chávez. “[It] would encompass more people and would help a lot of folks out.”
As an immigrant herself from Baja California, Mexico, Chávez said it’s important for her to advocate for issues such as this because of her “privilege” as a U.S. citizen.
“I can no longer be deported by speaking my mind,” said Chávez. “I really wanted to provide a voice for someone who’s within the community at some point, to really help out.”
S.128: The BRIDGE Act
Heller said he supports the BRIDGE Act because it focuses on economic opportunity when solving the issue of immigration, and it discourages illegal immigration.
Mazariego said initially there was a lot of support behind the BRIDGE Act, but that changed after the DACA announcement.
“It was introduced earlier this year,” said Mazariego. “Then on Sept. 5 of this year, since DACA was now being rescinded, there’s been a lot of ‘No, we don’t want to do the BRIDGE Act, because it isn’t a pathway to citizenship.’”
This reaction is a concern both Mazariego and Chávez share. The BRIDGE Act is equivalent to DACA because it extends three years to a person’s legal immigration status as long as the fee is paid, but it offers no resolution for obtaining actual citizenship.
“And so people who are looking through the BRIDGE Act, they see, ‘three years, and then what?’” said Mazariego. “Congress is going to have to look at it again, and go back and change it.”
H.R.1468: The RAC Act
Congressman Amodei is co-sponsoring the RAC Act as a pathway to citizenship. Unlike the DREAM Act, it only covers children brought to the U.S. as minors, similar to DACA.
This act allows for the attainment of naturalization through three ways: higher education, service in the armed forces or work authorization.
“If the RAC Act does pass, individuals do have to have a high school diploma by the time they turn 18,” said Mazariego. “Not everyone has the same opportunities to get a high school diploma because they have to drop out of school to go to work to support their families. So that doesn’t give them much space or opportunity to seek a legal pathway [to citizenship].”
According to the Migration Policy Institute, approximately 1.7 million immigrants would be covered by the RAC Act.