- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2017

A bipartisan coalition on Capitol Hill introduced legislation Thursday to grant young adult illegal immigrants here under President Obama’s 2012 amnesty a more permanent legal status, saying the bill will protect them from deportations while Congress works out a more permanent solution.

Dubbed the Bridge Act, the legislation is designed to forestall any quick moves toward deportation by a new administration under a President Trump.

The legislation is mostly symbolic, since it’s certain not to become law before Mr. Trump takes office, and even after he’s sworn in the bill is a long shot.

But its sponsors wanted to signal their support for the young illegal immigrants, known as Dreamers, who often came to the U.S. as young children and are the most sympathetic cases in the debate.

“These young people have much to offer the country and we stand to benefit from the many contributions they will make to America,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.

Mr. Obama in 2012 created a new deportation amnesty for Dreamers, granting them work permits and a renewable two-year stay of deportation. As of September, more than 750,000 illegal immigrants had been approved under the amnesty.

Mr. Trump has said the 2012 policy is illegal and has said he will quickly revoke it. But he hasn’t said what he’d do about those who have been approved. Among his options are to let them keep their current status until it expires over the next two years, or immediate revocation of their status, which could make them targets for deportation.

The Bridge Act would prohibit immigration agents from deporting them.

Versions were introduced in the House and Senate by Republicans and Democrats — though not in the numbers needed to suggest enough support for GOP leaders to take up the legislation. Only three Republicans and three Democrats are sponsors in the Senate, and four Republicans and four Democrats are sponsors in the House.

Congress came close to granting Dreamers a full pathway to citizenship in late 2010. In the days before Democrats ceded control of the House to the GOP, they powered legislation through that chamber — but they ran into a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

Now, immigrant rights advocates have picked the Dreamers as their chief rallying point in a new Trump administration. Some have pleaded with Mr. Obama to issue a blanket pardon to them, while others have demanded he find a way to shield their information so it can’t be used to target them or their families for deportation.

Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, Mr. Trump’s nominee to lead the Homeland Security Department, has not taken a stance on how to handle Dreamers.

During his confirmation hearing he said they would not be at the top of the priority list for deportation, but didn’t go further. In his written answers to questions he said he wasn’t familiar enough with the Obama administration’s policies to say how he would handle the question of using Dreamers’ information to facilitate deportations.

Immigrant rights advocates said senators should demand clearer answers before they vote to confirm Gen. Kelly.

And they said they’ll pressure members of Congress to find ways to protect Dreamers.

Immigrant rights groups are hosting meetings and marches Saturday to try to raise the profile of their issue ahead of Mr. Trump’s swearing in.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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