Democrats Push Change To Congressional Employment Law To Allow DACA Hires
By Jennifer G. Hickey | April 4, 2019
Senate Democrats unveiled legislation this week to overturn current law stipulating that to work in the Federal Government an individual must be a U.S. citizen or national (residents of American Samoa and Swains Island).
On Wednesday, Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Catherine Cortez-Masto of Nevada introduced the American Dream Employment Act, which would add Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries as a category eligible for employment or paid internships on Capitol Hill.
The law prohibiting the employment of non-citizens in the Federal Government does have few exceptions. For example, a non-U.S. citizen may be hired into the excepted service or Senior Executive service, “if the annual Appropriations Act, the Immigration Law and the agency’s internal policies allow it;” or if no “qualified U.S. citizen is available.”
Specifically, the bill would amend amends Sec. 704 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019 to allow the employment of anyone who can provide documentation that they are part of DACA.
According to the USAJobs, the legal orders determining whether a non-U.S. citizen can work in a federal agency are:
- Executive Order 11935 requiring citizenship in the competitive civil service.
- The annual appropriations act ban on paying aliens from many countries.
- The immigration law ban on employing aliens unless they are lawfully admitted for permanent residence or otherwise authorized to be employed.
Current law also requires congressional staffers with legal residency, including refugees, to sign an affidavit swearing to the fact they are taking affirmative action to obtain full citizenship.
Speaking to the bill, Harris implied the prohibition was targeted at DACA beneficiaries.
“But right now, those same young people are banned from giving back to their country by working for Congress,” she said. It was a misnomer repeated by Sen. Cortez-Masto, who claimed Congress had “created obstacles that keep some of our brightest young minds from fully contributing to our country.”
Of course, the employment restrictions were in place well before President Obama even dreamt of taking his unconstitutional action to protect these illegal alien children.
No Republican has signed on to either bill. As Republicans control the Senate, it seems likely the bill will serve greater utility as a talking point, rather than as a vehicle for changing the law.