DACA Aliens One Step Further to Working in Congress
By Preston Huennekens | May 16, 2019
On May 9, the Democrat-controlled House Committee on Appropriations approved a draft Legislative Branch funding bill that would allow congressional offices to hire illegal aliens as staff members – one step further toward a vote of the full House.
The appropriations process in Congress is overtly political. In February, the federal government shut down because of disputes over the Department of Homeland Security’s funding. Every aspect of government becomes a vehicle for both parties to advance their legislative priorities. Parties often use funding bills to pass party-level initiatives and make political appeals to chosen constituencies, which is certainly the case with Democrats pushing to permit DACA recipients to work in Congressional offices.
For years, appropriations clauses banned foreign aliens from employment in the Federal government unless they were legal permanent residents or refugees pursuing naturalization. Whilemost believe it is because of a hard rule in U.S. code, the exception actually was the result of language inserted in annual budgets. A report from the Congressional Research Service explains this procedure:
“Currently, annual appropriations enactments prohibit the use of funds for the compensation of any federal government employee or officer in the continental United States unless that person is (1) a U.S. citizen, (2) an LPR who is applying for naturalization, (3) a person admitted as a refugee or granted asylum who has filed a declaration of intent to become an LPR and eventually a U.S. citizen, or (4) a non-citizen, U.S. national who owes allegiance to the United States (e.g., a person born in American Samoa)”
The addition of the DACA language could set up an interesting quandary for Republicans in the Senate since Seven current GOP senators voted last year for Senator Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) DACA bill.and seven current GOP senators voted in 2013 for the controversial Gang of Eight amnesty, which included DREAM Act language.
Outside of the appropriations process, two other Democratic bills would allow DACA recipients to work in Congress. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the “American Dream Employment Act of 2019” (S. 1095) which addresses this. The bill’s House companion is H.R. 668, introduced by Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-02). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) estimates that there are 673,340 active DACA recipients as of February 2019.
Would these senators buck GOP leadership and vote with Democrats to allow DACA recipients to work on Capitol Hill? We could soon find out.