Despite a veto threat from President Trump, House Democrats on Tuesday passed a bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 2 million undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them to the United States as children.
The 237-187 vote elicited chants of “Si Se Puede” or “Yes We Can” in the chamber. The measure is not likely to succeed in the GOP-led Senate, where other pieces of legislation on issues like gun control, healthcare and climate change, advanced by Democrats have languished in recent years.
Just seven Republicans voted to support the bill, while all 187 “no” votes came from Republicans.
The measure, dubbed the Dream and Promise Act, would protect the so-called “Dreamers” — like those protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — from deportation and provide them a pathway for citizenship should they meet certain criteria.
The proposal would also offer legal status to an estimated 400,000 people given Temporary Protected Status — mainly from Central America, Africa and the Middle East — which have been engulfed in wars, civil conflict and natural disasters.
“This is about who we are as Americans, and what is in the best interests of our country,” said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., the measure’s chief sponsor.
To qualify for legal residence, the Dreamers and other immigrants brought to the U.S. could qualify if they attain college degrees, serve in the military or have worked at least three years. They can apply for citizenship after another five years.
The measure lacks border security provisions, a sticking point for most Republicans.
“This bill, to my mind, would ruin America,” said Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis.
The proposal would “would incentivize and reward illegal immigration” without “protecting our communities and defending our borders,” according to a letter the White House sent to lawmakers.
Republicans pushed to add a provision to prevent suspected gang members from applying for legal status. Democrats argued the bill already contained controls to do just that.
“I would ask my colleagues to spare me this false outrage,” said Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., according to Politico. “At the end of the day, there is no question that no one is interested in allowing gang members to benefit.“
The White House has tried dismantling the Obama-era DACA program but has been rebuffed by federal courts. The debate over the bill coincided with a surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, which has strained the government’s ability to detain and process new arrivals.
President Trump has said he will impose a 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods beginning next week if that country’s government doesn’t do more to prevent the flow of migrants and drugs into the U.S. The president has said the tariffs will generate enough revenue to cover the $4.5 billion to address the influx that he has unsuccessfully requested from Congress.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.