According to a new report there are far more so-called  “Dreamers” in the United States than the 800,000 Congress has been debating. While the number may well be accurate in relation to the number of illegal aliens who were offered temporary amnesty under former President Barack Hussein Obama’s DACA program, there are likely around 3.6 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., brought to the U.S. as children, accord to the report.

The Obama-era DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, was cancelled by President Donald J. Trump and his administration last year. At that time, defenders of the program worried that some 800,000 recipients of the program, referred to as “Dreamers” would be uprooted. However, those recipients are only a small portion of a larger group of illegals living in the U.S.

USA Today reports: The 3.6 million estimate of undocumented immigrants brought to U.S. before their 18th birthday comes from the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit think tank that studies global immigration patterns. That is roughly a third of all undocumented immigrants in the country and does not include millions of their immediate family members who are U.S. citizens.

A number so large raises the stakes for both sides in the dispute over whether to deport DREAMers, allow them to stay under prescribed conditions, or provide them with a path to citizenship. 

Dreamers are illegal immigrants who were brought illegally into the U.S. when they were too young to have given consent for the illegal activity, so-called due to a bill proposed in Congress in 2001 called the DREAM Act. The act would protect the group of immigrants who grew up in the U.S. and consider themselves Americans. Some of those Dreamers qualified for DACA, which allowed them to work and go to school legally, as long as they were registered in the program.

To qualify for DACA, created in 2012, DREAMers had to undergo a thorough background check, prove they arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, were 30 or younger, were attending school or in the military, and had not committed a felony or serious misdemeanor. The program provided work permits and two-year reprieves from deportation that could be renewed.

In September, the Trump administration ended DACA, saying it was an illegal overreach of executive authority, which not defensible in court. The administration called on Congress to make legal immigration changes, and to come up with a solution for DACA recipients. There are several legislative proposals that each protect different numbers of Dreamers, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute. They include:

•The American Hope Act, introduced by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., which would provide legal status to 3.5 million DREAMers, excluding a small group who pose public safety threats.

•The DREAM Act presented to Trump by a bipartisan group of senators last week would allow 2.1 million to stay in the country.

•Other proposals from Republicans would protect up to 1.7 million immigrants.

•The most restrictive proposals would provide legal status only to the 798,980 people approved for DACA.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has said it will not deport former DACA recipients if their protections expire. However if Congress does not strike a deal by March 5, former DACA recipients will begin losing their deportation protections and work permits.

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