Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I thank Senator Durbin for his extraordinary leadership on this issue and so many others.
The Dreamers are part of this country. They are America’s future. They are helping to build this great Nation, and they need our attention now.
The Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House. One of their principal responsibilities is to pass a budget. We are now 3 months into the fiscal year, and we don’t have a budget, and we are talking about another continuing resolution. A couple of weeks ago, we were told on the floor to give it a couple of more weeks, and we would work out some of these issues. I agree with Senator Durbin. The time to act is now. We should not be going into recess without dealing with the problems of our country. We need to deal with the budget problem, and we, certainly, need to deal with the problem of the Dreamers. Let me just talk a little bit about them.
They entered the United States before they were 16 years old–that is required–before 2007. Under President Obama’s Executive order of 2012, they were entitled to a 2-year renewable work permit and the ability to remain in this country without being in fear of deportation. Each one has to go through a criminal background check. They need to be enrolled in school. They must either be high school graduates or in the U.S. military. In the United States today, we have 800,000 who are registered under the Dreamers. There are 10,000 in my State of Maryland, and they are contributing a half a billion dollars to Maryland’s GDP, or gross domestic product.
They are our next generation of teachers, doctor, engineers, and entrepreneurs. They are going to help build America, and they know no other country but the United States, which is their home.
In our values, what makes America the great Nation that it is is that we are a welcoming country. We are a country in which people have come over the years to build this great Nation. That is America’s strength.
Are we going to turn our back now on the values that built this country? Are we going to rip families apart? Is that what America stands for? I find that hard to imagine. Would we do this to our own economy and hurt ourselves, as we are growing with their help?
I have met with many Dreamers, not as many as Senator Durbin. He probably has the record. But I met with several Dreamers in Maryland. We had one in our office yesterday who had tears in her eyes. She said: I have an expiration date on my back. She doesn’t know what is going to happen when that date occurs.
How would you like to live under that fear in the United States of America? We are not talking about some communist country. We are talking about America, where people are living in fear.
I have had several roundtable discussions with Dreamers in Maryland. I have had them in College Park, Baltimore, and in other areas. Let me mention two Dreamers I met with. Adam was originally born in Canada. His family grew up in Pakistan. He came to the United States with his parents when he was very young. Becky was born in Peru and came here with her parents to the United States. I mention them collectively because they both attend the University of Maryland at College Park. Our State allows Dreamers to have instate tuition so they can go to college and get the tools they need in order to succeed. They need work permits because they have to work. Otherwise, they never would have been able to get through school. They need a driver’s license. Adam explained to me that he needed a driver’s license to go to a magnet school so that he could advance his own education. That was all possible through President Obama’s Executive order. Now all of that has been put into doubt because of President Trump’s announcements that the program will end. It puts their lives on hold and in fear, and they wonder whether they need to go into the shadows in the United States of America.
President Trump’s actions were wrong. We can correct that, and Congress must act. We must act now before we go home for the holidays.
I wish to talk about a similar group of people in our country–a large number in my State of Maryland–those under Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, because it is a similar situation. There are 437,000 people in America from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. In Maryland, 22,500 people are here from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti–from those three countries alone–and 90 percent of the TPS people in this country are from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, the three principal countries. My own State’s recipients contribute $1.2 billion of our gross domestic product. This is a very similar situation to the Dreamers. They get a 6- to 18-month extension. They have been here for decades because the underlying conditions in the countries from which they came still exist today. I have been to Central America. I can tell you that it is not safe for these people to be returned to those gang activities. They have the same similar situation. They know no other country but America. If they are required to go back to the country in which they were born, it will tear families apart. They have been disadvantaged by the President’s actions where he is now threatening to end these programs.
We need to act. We need to act in order to protect this group of citizens. I want to acknowledge that my colleagues have introduced legislation on this. S. 2144 provides a pathway to citizenship for those with TPS status. It is sponsored by Senators Van Hollen, Feinstein, and others. We should take that bill up and pass it. Let’s provide protections. Let’s strengthen American values. Let’s do our work. Let’s do it now. Let’s do it before we go on recess. It is the right thing to do.
Let me just conclude by quoting from Becky again, one of the Dreamers I met. She said the best present she ever got was on her 13th birthday, when President Obama executed the Executive order that gave her legal status and hope here in America.
Well, we can give her an even better present right now before we take the recess for the Christmas holidays. We can give her a present of Congress, acting to provide protection for the Dreamers and for those on TPS so they don’t have to worry again and they know they have a home here in America.