WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) spoke on the Senate floor urging Republicans in Congress to pass the bipartisan Dream Act. Following Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comments yesterday that he plans to separate any legislation for Dreamers from the spending agreement, Senator Heinrich is calling on Republicans to bring the Dream Act up for a vote without delay.
Below are Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery:
I rise today to stand up for the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants known as Dreamers, whose lives President Trump has thrown into terrifying uncertainty.
Immigrant communities have long helped write the economic, social, and cultural story of my home state of New Mexico and, for that matter, the entire nation.
That is certainly true for the Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children and are vital members of communities across New Mexico.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting many of New Mexico’s estimated 7,000 Dreamers.
I’ve met students who grew up here and are now striving to become doctors, scientists, teachers, and even to serve in our military.
These young people are our children’s classmates.
They are next door neighbors.
They are colleagues.
They are family members.
And many are truly rising stars.
In fact, I would argue that these Dreamers are the future of a great America. Every day, these talented young people add to the strength of our economy and the vitality of our nation.
More than 97 percent of DACA recipients are in school or in the workforce.
The DACA program allowed them to work legally, get drivers licenses, go to college, serve in the military and give back to their communities.
DACA helped almost 70 percent of recipients secure a job with better pay, and better pay leads to real investments in our communities and our economy.
After their DACA applications were approved, nearly two-thirds of recipients reported buying their first car and almost one in six reported buying a new home.
DACA recipients also pay billions of dollars in federal, state and local taxes.
Why on Earth would we kick out these key contributors to our economy?
The economic impact of removing nearly 700,000 workers from the U.S. workforce would be staggering.
It would cost our economy nearly half a trillion dollars in GDP loss over the next decade.
And passing the Dream Act could add an estimated 281 billion dollars to the U.S. economy over the next ten years.
That sounds to me like “putting America first.”
I stand with these Dreamers and I always have.
One of my first actions when I was in the House of Representatives was to sign on as an original cosponsor of the Dream Act, which would create a pathway to legal status and citizenship for Dreamers who pursue higher education or serve our nation in uniform.
This commonsense, compassionate, and responsible policy is long overdue for a generation of young Americans.
Since President Trump made the heartless decision to end DACA, I have held his administration accountable for their mishandling of renewal applications for DACA recipients.
My office has assisted Dreamers in New Mexico through the DACA renewal process and is actively participating in meetings with communities and local advocacy groups throughout the state.
I introduced legislation to safeguard Dreamers’ private information—such as addresses and telephone numbers—so the Trump Administration can’t use it to target them or their families for deportation.
And when my office learned that the Department of Homeland Security had rejected hundreds of renewal applications that arrived late because they were delayed by the Postal Service, I pressed the Administration to take immediate action to reverse its decision.
I’m pleased that Dreamers whose applications were rejected due to Postal Service delays were allowed to resubmit their renewals for DACA.
Just last week, the first two DACA recipients in New Mexico, who brought this to my attention with the help of Catholic Charities, were told they could move forward with their DACA renewal applications.
But President Trump’s decision means that until Congress passes the Dream Act, these young members of our communities still face deep uncertainty about whether they will be able to stay in school, keep working and contributing to our economy, or remain in the nation they call home.
Congress must pass the Dream Act now.
Threatening to deport these young people who grew up in America and want to contribute to their nation will not fix our broken immigration system.
Making the American people foot the bill to build an unnecessary and wasteful border wall that families in New Mexico’s border communities have told me they do not want or need will not fix our broken immigration system.
President Trump and Congressional Republicans wasted an entire year trying to take away Americans’ health care and then rushed through tax breaks for the super-wealthy in the critical final weeks of the year.
By squandering an entire year, they pushed Dreamers aside and put their lives in jeopardy.
I voted to fund the government through the holidays in hopes Congress could finally reach an agreement to pass the Dream Act.
We also urgently need to reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program, fix wildfire disaster funding, and provide disaster relief for Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria.
Taking care of these long-neglected and bipartisan priorities is the bare minimum, and Republican leaders in Congress need to take this opportunity seriously – especially if they expect our support.
I will be fighting every step of the way to pass the Dream Act and I encourage all of my colleagues to do the same.
Since President Trump shamefully pulled the rug out from under Dreamers when he hastily ended the DACA program, I have spent time meeting with Dreamers in New Mexico and here in Washington.
You cannot hear their stories without realizing how morally bankrupt the administration’s current policy is.
It’s impossible for me to convey the desperation and fear they are feeling with every day that passes without us passing the Dream Act.
Now is the time to give these young Americans a permanent place in our nation.
Enough is enough.
Their patience has worn thin with the President and Congressional Republicans using them as a political bargaining chip.
It is immoral to play politics with the lives of these young Americans.
I will say again: Congress absolutely must pass the Dream Act without delay.
But we should not stop there.
Leaders in Congress have waited far too long on finally addressing our nation’s broken immigration system.
I still continue to believe that our nation urgently needs Congress to pass comprehensive immigration legislation that includes a visa system that meets the needs of our economy, a tough but fair path to earned citizenship for the estimated 11 million people in our country who are undocumented, and a plan that ensures community safety and security at our borders.
When I think about immigration, I always wonder how different my own life would be if America had turned my father away when he immigrated here as a young boy.
Our nation’s enduring spirit has been built by the hard work and dreams of so many striving young immigrants, like my father in the 1930s, and like so many Dreamers today.
No member of Congress should be able to rest until Dreamers are able to rest easy knowing they will be able to stay and contribute to the only nation they call home.