Democratic women senators are calling for a vote on the Dream Act before the end of the year to prevent the deportation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, a majority of whom are women.
The 11 senators, including U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging him to allow a vote on the Dream Act, which is similar to the DACA program established by President Barack Obama's administration in 2012.
DACA grants temporary protected status to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. To be eligible for the program, they must meet educational requirements and have no serious criminal offenses on their record.
The Trump administration announced in September that it would end the DACA program and gave Congress six months to reach an agreement on a legislative fix. Without the Dream Act or another legislative solution, DACA recipients will likely face deportation.
Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and her colleagues noted that 53 percent of DACA recipients are women. They cited a survey that found about one-quarter of DACA recipients are parents of children who are American citizens.
"The futures of these mothers and their U.S. citizen children have been thrown into uncertainty," the senators wrote. "If Congress does not act to protect them, hundreds of thousands of women will lose their status and face deportation."
With Trump's decision to phase out DACA, many Democrats and even some Republicans view the Dream Act as a legislative solution to prevent the deportation of more than 800,000 DACA recipients.
The Dream Act contains many of the same or similar provisions as DACA. Permanent resident status would be given to immigrants who were under the age of 18 when they came to the U.S. and have spent at least four years in the country. They must not have a serious criminal record or be a national security threat.
The educational requirements would be maintained.
There is bipartisan support for the Dream Act in the Senate. The bill is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican. The bill's nine cosponsors include six Democrats and three Republicans.
The women senators — the letters other signers were U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Maria Cantwell, Catherine Cortez Masto, Tammy Duckworth, Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris, Mazie Hirono, Amy Klobuchar, Patty Murray and Elizabeth Warren — touted the benefits of the Dream Act, especially for immigrant women.
A vast majority of DACA recipients — more than 90 percent — have jobs, according to the senators. And nearly three-quarters of those in the program were able to get better jobs once they received DACA status.
"Without the Dream Act, women will face extreme difficulty making ends meet for their families," the senators wrote.
There is no indication of when — or if — Congress will address the DACA program. One plan was to include the Dream Act or a similar measure in a larger spending bill. According to Politico, that idea has been met with resistance from conservative Republicans.
If the spending bill doesn't include language to protect DACA recipients, some Democrats have threatened to oppose the legislation.