Advocates welcome expanded provisions, disappointed by juvenile justice exclusions

In response to the introduction of the Dream and Promise Act, Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children, issued the following statement:

“The Dream and Promise Act’s pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients is a victory for immigrant youth and leaders. The bill gives millions of children and youth, including nearly half a million U.S. citizen children, relief from the fear of family separation, detention, and deportation, and the certainty that they can remain in the country they call home.

We’re particularly pleased that the bill will benefit roughly 3 million people — almost one million more than in the past — and that it expands protection to 18-year-olds and to those who have more recently arrived in the U.S.

However, we are deeply disappointed that the bill denies the pathway to citizenship to children and youth who had contact with the juvenile justice system or who were allegedly or actually involved in gang activity. Our juvenile justice system recognizes that children and youth are different from adults. Children and youth are dynamic, and always changing. It is wrong and inappropriate to impose lifelong consequences for decisions children and youth make when they are still growing and discovering the world. Additionally, we know that racism permeates the justice and other systems, and that Black and brown young people are more likely to have contact with the criminal legal system or be listed on harmful databases because of racist policies and over-policing.

Immigrant youth, TPS holders, and DED recipients have called for a pathway to citizenship, and Congress must act with urgency to meet their call. As the Dream and Promise Act moves to a vote, we urge members of Congress to make the bill more inclusive and not permanently deny the safety and certainty of a path to citizenship to children and youth for past mistakes.”