House Democrats pass 'historic' bill to shield Dreamers from Trump deportation force
Activists and DACA recipients march up Broadway during the start of their 'Walk to Stay Home,' a five-day 250-mile walk from New York to Washington D.C., to demand that Congress pass a Clean Dream Act, in Manhattan, New York, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

After ignoring shouts of "build the wall" from a Republican congressman and defeating amendments designed to kill the legislation, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the "Dream and Promise Act" with the goal of providing a pathway to citizenship for millions of young undocumented immigrants who are facing the threat of deportation under the Trump administration.

The bill, H.R. 6, passed by a vote of 237 to 187, with just seven Republicans voting yes.

"We will keep fighting for permanent protection and reject any proposals to grow Trump's deportation force and anti-immigrant agenda."

—United We Dream

Immigrant rights groups that are fighting President Donald Trump's deportation machine and xenophobic policy agenda applauded the passage of H.R. 6, calling it a "historic milestone" in the struggle to protect vulnerable immigrant communities.

"This is the first time since 2010 that legislation to protect immigrant communities without hurting them has passed a chamber of Congress," said United We Dream in a statement. "We will keep fighting for permanent protection and reject any proposals to grow Trump's deportation force and anti-immigrant agenda."

In addition to providing over two million young undocumented immigrants—known as Dreamers—a path to citizenship, House Democrats' legislation would also provide a pathway to citizenship for people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a program for those fleeing violence, persecution, and natural disasters that Trump has attempted to end for several countries.

"Today, we celebrate but we know our journey is still a long one," Francis Garcia, a Honduran TPS holder, said in a statement. "TPS holders have been living in limbo for decades, not knowing if some day our status would be revoked."

"H.R. 6 makes clear, the overwhelming national consensus is for TPS justice, but the fact is, our families are still not protected," Garcia added. "Now we build from here."

While the legislation faces opposition from Trump and Senate Republicans, the passage of the Dream and Promise Act was met with jubilant celebration on the House floor.

"Today, after years of GOP refusal, the House finally voted on the Dream Act under a Dem majority," tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). "The moment when it passed was like a rock concert. The people's cheers brought many, many members to tears. What a moment. This is why we fight."

The Dream and Promise Act passed the House despite the GOP minority's best efforts to stop it, including by pushing a last-minute "motion to recommit" designed to kill the legislation.

Speaking against the Republican motion on the House floor Tuesday, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.)—the son of Eritrean immigrants—was interrupted by repeated outbursts of disapproval and at least two shouts of "build the wall" from the Republican side of the aisle.

"Their racism is showing," José Alonso Muñoz said of the Republican shouting. "Glad the House did the right thing."

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement that passage of the Dream and Promise Act is "a testament to the work, commitment, and growing power of immigrant communities and the movement for immigrant justice."

While noting that some of the language in the bill is problematic from a criminal justice standpoint and must be changed, Hincapié noted that the legislation contains "precedent-setting inclusivity, including a roadmap to U.S. citizenship for 2.5 million immigrant youth and people with temporary protected status or deferred enforced departure, an increase in age caps, stronger judicial protections, and more."

"This victory, eight years in the making, is more urgent now than ever before," Hincapié said. "[W]e won't stop until immigrants and their families are able to remain with their loved ones, live freely, and have the tools they need to thrive and fulfill their full human potential."