Kamala Harris is playing no games when it comes to immigration reform.
On Wednesday, the former California state attorney general will join Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) in introducing legislation that would make Dreamers eligible to work as staffers or interns in Congress. Currently the approximately 700,000 participants in the program can legally work, but they’re restricted to only unpaid internships in Congress.
“The giant sign outside my office says ‘DREAMers Welcome Here’ because we know and value the contributions that these young people have made to their communities,” Harris said in a statement. “But right now, those same young people are banned from giving back to their country by working for Congress. That has to change.”
As it stands, only permanent residents planning to become citizens and U.S. citizens are eligible for employment in the House or Senate. But the “American Dream Employment Act” would remove what supporters of immigrant-rights call a “mean-spirited ban” on Dreamers eager to work in Congress.
Unfortunately, the legislation is unlikely to become law due to rivals like Trump and a Republican-controlled Senate, but it is indicative of the type of immigration policies that Harris would lend her support behind should she become president in 2020.
According to Huffington Post, a similar bill was introduced in the House earlier this year, and thus far, 57 members of congress are co-sponsoring it. All but one—Rep. Jenniffer González Colón of Puerto Rico—are Democrats.
“With programs like DACA [...] undocumented immigrant youth had the chance to live and thrive without the fear of deportation, but they were still barred from paid employment on Capitol Hill,” Greisa Martínez Rosas, a DACA recipient and deputy executive director of immigrant rights group United We Dream, said in the release. “This bill and similar proactive policies would open the door for immigrant youth to access opportunities within the halls of Congress.”
She later added, “Our communities need more solutions which reject sending more money to the deportation force and instead deliver citizenship, family unity, and dignity for all.”
Harris has made no secret about her commitment to immigration reform, as evidenced by her introducing legislation that would expand Immigration and Customs Enforcement oversight. But she’s also gone as far as breaking with her party, as her state of California has the most DACA recipients in the country.
According to Politico, she was one of three Democrats last year to oppose an immigration compromise that offered billions for the border wall in exchange for citizens for Dreamers.
“She’s been a strong advocate particularly on issues that I’m concerned about: comprehensive immigration reform, DACA and Dreamers,” Durbin said. “I think there’s a certain intensity to her position based on the state she represents because of the diversity of” California.