Washington representatives from both sides of the aisle are joining forces to cosponsor a new bill that would stop certain undocumented youth from being deported.
The Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow Our Economy (BRIDGE) Act, or H.R. 496, would protect undocumented youth who are working while Congress drafts an immigration plan. Washington representatives Pramila Jayapal, Dave Reichert, and Dan Newhouse all announced they will be cosponsoring the bill on Tuesday.
“Our inhumane immigration system goes against our values,” said Jayapal, a Democrat from Seattle. “We need to work together to solve this crisis.”
The BRIDGE Act would impact youth most likely to be affected by any changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which was an executive order signed by then-president Barack Obama in 2012 to protect undocumented youth, also called “Dreamers.” The BRIDGE Act also protects those in the process of applying for DACA.
To be protected by the BRIDGE Act, the youth must have entered the U.S. before reaching the age of 16, be enrolled in school, and not have any felonies or more than two misdemeanors. The protected status that would be enacted by the BRIDGE Act would last for three years.
“This is an important first step toward protecting these young people from deportation,” Jayapal said. “I will continue to advocate for a permanent solution—not only for these children, but also their families.”
Reichert, a Republican from Issaquah, echoed Jayapal’s also said he is hoping the act will allow undocumented youth from being forced to leave the country.
“We can and should defend the children who were brought to our nation many years ago outside of their own control,” Reichert said. “This is their country and their home.”
There are an estimated 750,000 Dreamers protected by DACA nationwide that the benefits of the BRIDGE Act would extend to, with nearly 17,000 in Washington state.
“It’s our moral responsibility to protect children who were brought here years ago through no fault of their own,” Jayapal said. “Not only because they are our friends, neighbors and loved ones, but because it’s right thing to do.”
The BRIDGE Act was introduced in the House in December by Representatives Mike Coffman, a Republican representing Colorado, and Luis V. Gutiérrez, a Democrat in Illinois. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Republican senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Democrat senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Although the bill is still being reviewed by committees in both the Senate and House, 11 different Congress members have already cosponsored the bill.