David Valadao, the Hanford Republican representing California’s 21st Congressional District, announced his support Wednesday for the House’s latest attempt to pass a Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that could allow millions of undocumented people to avoid deportation and eventually become American citizens.
“These young people, known as Dreamers, make significant contributions to our communities each and every day,” Valadao said in a statement. “These individuals were brought to the United States through no fault of their own and have lived with uncertainty about their future for far too long.”
The act would allow people to earn lawful permanent residency provided they can pass a criminal background check, were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and meet a variety of other standards, including being employed, in college or in the military. It would also direct the secretary of Homeland Security to cancel any deportations planned for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.
President Donald Trump has moved to end DACA, which allowed thousands of undocumented people to live in the country legally provided they met certain requirements, registered and paid a fee. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the government accepted nearly 1.5 million DACA applications between 2012-16. Around 800,000 people were protected from deportation under DACA.
The Trump administration gave Congress until March to enact some sort of legislation to preserve DACA’s protections. Lawmakers have tried and failed to pass a DREAM act several times since 2001.
In February, Valadao sent a letter to Trump asking for his support for congressional immigration reform.
Valadao’s decision to back the latest DREAM Act appears to be a surprising departure from the GOP line. According to Congress’ website, only two other Republicans – and 191 of the 194 House Democrats – have officially co-sponsored the bill. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, sponsored the bill.
However, Valadao’s district – which includes parts of Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern counties – is predominantly Latino. He noted in his statement that “more than 47,000 individuals impacted by the program” live in the 21st district. The U.S Census pegged the district’s total population at about 716,000.
Valadao has remained popular in a district where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a wide margin (Hillary Clinton beat Trump by more than 15 points there) by focusing on important local issues: Immigration, water, education and so on.
This is not the first time Valadao has seemingly crossed party lines for immigration reform. In 2013, he was one of a handful of Republicans to support the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. That bill, which also contained a DREAM Act provision, would prove frustrating for Valadao, as it was killed before ever reaching the floor for a vote.
Shortly after Valadao’s statement went public, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Andrew Godinich said Valadao was “clearly bowing to Democratic and activist pressure on this legislation.” The DCCC had previously released statements demanding Valadao co-sponsor the DREAM act and criticizing the congressman for his voting record, which Democrats contend has not always matched his public statements on DACA and immigration.
“Co-sponsorship isn’t enough,” Godinich said. “He needs to push his Republican colleagues to bring this vote to the floor and also pass this legislation.”
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, also took to Twitter Wednesday to voice his support of the DREAM Act.