Should children of undocumented immigrants be allowed to work for members of Congress?
Under current law, employment in the U.S. Senate or House — such as policy aides or research assistants — are only for U.S. citizens.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, established in 2012, allows children of undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country under a certain age to receive work permits as adults. However, the ban on such individuals working in the U.S. Senate or House remains.
For example, one freshman member wasn’t allowed to hire his winning campaign’s own political director onto his congressional team, because she wasn’t a citizen.
The Trump Administration has tried to rescind the program, but federal courts have blocked that move and maintained the program’s existence for the time being.
What the legislation does
The American Dream Employment Act would formally allow DACA recipients to work in jobs on Capitol Hill for members of Congress.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill is a matter of fairness, allowing what they consider an oft-marginalized community an opportunity to help shape legislation and policy on Capitol Hill that affects them.
“If our Republican colleagues on the Hill could hear the heartbreaking, inspiring and resilient stories of DREAMers and work alongside them, then I believe they would understand the importance of fixing our broken immigration system. This is one step in a series of steps we need to take,” Rep. Kirkpatrick said in a press release. “DREAMers are Americans and they should be able to have a voice in the legislative process, which impacts their lives and communities. ”
“The giant sign outside my office says ‘DREAMers Welcome Here’ because we know and value the contributions that these young people have made to their communities,” Sen. Harris said in a separate press release. “But right now, those same young people are banned from giving back to their country by working for Congress. That has to change.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that the entire DACA program is unconstitutional and takes jobs away from Americans. After all, if you must be a citizen to serve in Congress, why should the rules for their staffers be different?
“The executive branch [under Obama], through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions,” then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said when announcing his plan to rescind the program. “Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.”
“The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences,” Sessions continued. “It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”
Odds of passage
The House version has attracted 71 cosponsors: 70 Democrats plus one Republican, Commish. Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR0). Puerto Rico’s representative is allowed to cosponsor legislation but not cast a counting vote. It awaits a possible vote in the House Administration Committee.
The Senate version has attracted 22 cosponsors, all Democrats or Democratic-affiliated independents. It awaits a possible vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
A previous version introduced in 2016 never received a House vote in the then Republican-controlled chamber. Momentum has clearly surged among Democrats, since that version only attracted 30 Democratic cosponsors, less than half of what it now has.