Markup Hearing of DREAM Act, Venezuelan TPS Act and American Promise Act
Preston Huennekens | May 24, 2019
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary committee held a markup hearing for three pieces of immigration legislation: The DREAM Act of 2019 (H.R. 2820), the Venezuela TPS Act (H.R. 549) and the American Promise Act (H.R. 2821). The committee reported favorably each of these amnesty bills and they now head to the House floor for a full vote. Barring any strange developments, all three bills will likely pass the full House of Representatives.
Committee markups offer a rare look into the legislative process. This is where the full committee debates the proposed legislation. These markups also give the minority party a chance to offer amendments to the bill. Incredibly, Wednesday’s markup of these three bills lasted for more than eight hours due to the number of amendments offered by the Republicans. These amendments were good-faith efforts to improve the bills and minimize the serious shortcomings of the amnesty proposals.
The DREAM Act of 2019
The first bill marked up by the committee was the Dream Act – arguably the largest and most expansive of the three pieces of legislation. The Democrats rejected ten Republican amendments, and made a number of acrobatic justifications for voting against common-sense changes supporting many principles they claim to support.
Aliens with DUIs
Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) introduced the first amendment clarifying that aliens are ineligible for adjustment of status (amnesty) if they carry a DUI conviction that caused serious bodily injury or the death of another person. The second part of the amendment would have ensured an alien would be ineligible if they had at least two DUI convictions.
The original bill clarifies that aliens can carry up to three misdemeanor offenses and still be granted relief. Rep. Chabot introduced this amendment to ensure this amnesty could not be given to aliens with a history of drunk driving. Driving while intoxicated is one of the most common offenses committed by illegal aliens. Unfortunately, there are countless instances where American families have lost loved ones due to aliens driving while intoxicated.
The Democrats, unmoved by these concerns, rejected this amendment 10-20.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) introduced an amendment that would strengthen the bill by forbidding aliens with known connections or ties to criminal gangs from receiving amnesty.
As written, the bill prohibits the Secretary from delegating authority to deny applications due to gang membership. This meant that only the Secretary of Homeland Security could review individual cases. Without Gohmert’s amendment, the bill would be a de facto amnesty of gang members because the Secretary would never have the bandwidth to individually inspect cases by his or herself.
Instead of fixing these loopholes, which will amnesty gang members, the Democrats rejected this amendment 10-18.
Misdemeanor firearm offenses
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced an amendment that would bar aliens from relief if they carried a single firearm-related misdemeanor. Yet even here, Democratic members found ways to color this amendment as frivolous and unnecessary, claiming that the bill already carried strong protections against such crimes. Gaetz challenged those members that if they thought it was already covered, what was the harm in adding this additional level of protection?
The Democrats rejected this amendment 13-17.
These three proposals all made common sense additions to this incredibly flawed bill. That Democrats defended including aliens with DUI and gun offenses is concerning. That they supported including amnesty for gang members is breathtaking. The committee ordered the bill reported favorably by a vote of 19-10.
Venezuela TPS Act
This bill suggests giving temporary protected status (TPS) to Venezuelan nationals living in the United States. In theory, TPS prevents aliens from returning to dangerous conditions in their home country by giving them temporary time windows in which they can remain in the United States. In reality, these nationals get a free amnesty because they receive work authorization documents permitting them to work and build a life in the country. By the happy accident of their being present in the U.S. they can avoid ever going home.
The Republicans offered only two amendments to this bill, both of which their sponsors withdrew. The committee ordered the bill reported favorably by a vote of 20-9.
American Promise Act
The American Promise Act is a compliment to the Dream Act. But rather than addressing “dreamers” it deals with those aliens with TPS and Liberians with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). President Trump announced that effective March 30, 2020, Liberians in the U.S. with DED would lose their status. There are currently ten countries currently designated for TPS: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. President Trump attempted to end some TPS designations, but activist district courts prohibited his attempts.
This bill would place those on TPS and DED on a path to citizenship. The text dictates that the Secretary cancel the removal of any alien with active TPS/DED status before January 1, 2017 and adjust their status to legal permanent residents (green cards).
Only Congressman Ben Cline (R-VA) offered an amendment to the bill. His proposal suggested lowering the eligibility to those who had status before January 1, 2010 as opposed to January 1, 2017. This change excludes all recipients from Haiti (January 10, 2010), Nepal (2015), Somalia (2012), South Sudan (2016), Sudan (2013), Syria (2012) and Yemen (2015). The only nationals eligible to adjust their status would hail from El Salvador (2001), Honduras (1998) and Nicaragua (1998). The Democrats rejected this amendment 9-20.
The committee ordered this bill favorably reported by a vote of 20-9.
These three bills offer all amnesty with no discussion of border security or changes to interior enforcement. The situation on our southern border is nothing short of a disaster. Without legislative fixes, Border Patrol will apprehend over one million aliens this year. All of them will likely claim asylum and those that do will earn work permits and a chance to disappear into the interior of the U.S., likely absconding their future immigration court proceedings.
Instead of addressing this crisis, the Democratic majority saw fit to jam this Dreamer-related legislation through the committee and onto the floor. This legislation will pass in the House. It is unlikely that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will act on any of these bills.