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House moves closer to undoing a ban on Dreamers working in government

An amendment to an appropriations bill was approved out of subcommittee Monday

An amendment to allow Dreamers to work in the federal government was approved out of subcommittee on Monday. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
An amendment to allow Dreamers to work in the federal government was approved out of subcommittee on Monday. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House moved one step closer this week towards unlocking civil service jobs for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers.

Young adult immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or Dreamers, cannot apply to jobs on Capitol Hill or with federal agencies because of a little-known provision in annual appropriations bills. But Rep. Pete Aguilar announced Monday that an amendment he proposed to override the provision was included in a $24.9 billion government operations spending bill. That bill was approved by the House Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee Monday night.

“DACA recipients represent the best and brightest in our country, but our broken immigration system has barred them from public service,” the California Democrat said in a statement. “These young people, who have known no other country as their home, deserve the chance to improve their communities and serve their country through federal employment. I look forward to the work ahead as we ensure this provision becomes law.”

Right now Dreamers can apply for internships and fellowships in congressional offices and with federal agencies through third-party scholarship programs. But DACA recipients seeking work in politics often collide with this upper limit to their ambitions after the internship stage.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a glass ceiling. The way I see it is if you’re on train tracks and there’s this series of switches, for folks like myself, you have no other choice but to reroute your life,” Angel Silva told Roll Call in March. Silva came with his parents from Mexico at age 1 and was turned down for a congressional staffer job because of the ban.

Approximately 688,860 individuals have registered DACA status as of Nov. 31, 2018, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey cheered the amendment in a statement, calling it a “critical issue.”

“Dreamers deserve every opportunity to contribute to the success of our nation,” Lowey said. “I am proud to work alongside a tenacious advocate like Pete on this critical issue.” 

Subcommittee Republicans helped pass the same amendment in 2017, but it was ultimately stripped by the final bill text by Republican leadership, Aguilar said. The next year, Republicans voted down the amendment.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris of California introduced legislation in the upper chamber to undo the ban on DREAMERs working on Capitol Hill a couple of weeks after a CQ/Roll Call story spotlighted the issue.

Camila DeChalus contributed reporting. 

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Photos of the week ending May 17, 2024