Dreamers get an ally: Lindsey Graham wants to protect children of undocumented immigrants

Graham plans on proposing legislation that will keep one of Obama's top policy items alive

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 1, 2016 5:17PM (EST)

        (AP/Pablo Martinez Montsivais)
(AP/Pablo Martinez Montsivais)

Sen. Lindsey Graham wants to protect the children of undocumented immigrants, regardless of what President-elect Donald Trump may prefer to do.

According to a Wednesday report by Politico, the South Carolina Republican is preparing legislation that will continue Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy set in place by President Barack Obama in a directive issued in 2012. The policy permits undocumented immigrants without criminal histories who entered the United States before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 — or who were under 31 as of June 15, 2012 — and are in school, graduated from high school or honorably discharged from the military to receive renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation.

The executive action gave 740,000 undocumented immigrants — colloquially known as Dreamers — permits to work legally in the United States, as well as protection from deportation. Graham's proposed legislation would extend these legal protections.

As Politico pointed out, the Dreamers who put their faith in the government during the Obama administration provided personal information and submitted themselves to background checks. While they did this under the assumption that it would provide them a better life, some might now be concerned that the Trump administration could use such personal information to track down immigrants and deport them.

“The worst outcome is to repeal the legal status that these kids have,” Graham said. “Whether you agree with them having it or not, they’ve come out of the shadows.”

Graham later added, “It’s going to be basically, if you have legal status, you’ll continue legal status. I think it would pass overwhelmingly.”

This view was echoed by Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate. “Durbin will be involved in any effort to save the Dreamers,” said his spokesman Ben Marter.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, is another Republican expected to back Graham's legislation.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Barack Obama Donald Trump Immigration Reform Lindsey Graham