Cory Gardner, Michael Bennet cosponsor legislation to offer citizenship path for young immigrants

Author: Ernest Luning - September 5, 2017 - Updated: September 6, 2017


U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, said Tuesday he’s signing on with his Democratic counterpart Michael Bennet to cosponsor bipartisan legislation that would protect immigrants who entered the country illegally as children from deportation and offer them a path to citizenship if they meet certain conditions.

Gardner and Bennet declared their support for the DREAM Act of 2017 hours after the Trump administration announced plans to phase out an Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which protects hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions called DACA — the result of an executive order issued by President Obama — “an unconstitutional exercise of authority” and said the federal government will stop processing new applications under the program. Since its creation in 2012, DACA has provided nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the U.S. The Trump administration is giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix before the government stops renewing permits for people already covered by the program.

“Children who came to this country without documentation, through no fault of their own, must have the opportunity to remain here lawfully,” Gardner said in a statement, adding that he considers the DREAM Act an important step in an overhaul of the country’s immigration system.

The position marks a substantial shift in the Republican’s approach to immigration policy over the years. In 2014 when he was a House member running for the Senate, Gardner voted to sue the executive branch for failing to deport DACA recipients and a year after that voted to block funding to implement the program.

The two Colorado lawmakers are signing on to Senate legislation sponsored by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and GOP cosponsors Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, along with Democratic cosponsors Dick Durban of Illinois, Chuck Schumer of New York, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris of California.

“The Dream Act offers a promising solution amid a time of uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants around the country — especially in light of the President’s decision today to rescind DACA,” Bennet said in a statement. “While comprehensive immigration reform should remain a long-term solution, we also need a more immediate fix to protect Dreamers. I have long supported legislation that makes clear what we already know: supporting Dreamers boosts our economy, strengthens our national security, and aligns with our values. Congress must move quickly to pass this legislation.”

Gardner said he was proud to co-sponsor the bill “to provide certainty to the thousands of law-abiding Colorado Dreamers and demonstrate bipartisan leadership on this important issue.”

“I will continue to work with Senator Bennet and our colleagues in the Senate to move this bill forward into law,” Gardner said.

The legislation would establish permanent residency for young immigrants who arrive in the United States before they’re 18 if they graduate from high school or obtain a GED and then pursue higher education, hold a legally authorized job for at least three years, or serve in the military. Recipients also must pass security checks and demonstrate proficiency in English and a knowledge of U.S. history.

The bill differs somewhat from House legislation known as the BRIDGE Act, which doesn’t offer a path to citizenship for immigrants brought to the United States as minors.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.