THE HILL — Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) has introduced legislation that would allow young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to work for congressional offices.
Qualifying individuals who came to the U.S. illegally as children and hold temporary work permits through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program currently are not eligible to be employed by lawmakers. Only U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and certain refugees can work for members of the House and Senate.
The bill offered by Kirkpatrick, who is running for Senate in Arizona, would provide an exemption for DACA recipients.
“Telling these young people they cannot work in the seat of our government is like telling them they deserve something less than the American dream. That’s the wrong message to send — especially from an institution like Congress that could really benefit from their unique abilities and perspectives,” Kirkpatrick said in a statement.
Kirkpatrick, who represents a border state, is challenging Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in what could be the toughest reelection of his Senate career. Some early polls show Kirkpatrick tied with the longtime senator.
Some DACA recipients are able to work on Capitol Hill through third-party internship or fellowship programs, such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, that assign them to congressional offices. However, they are not formally employed by the offices for which they work.
Expanding government employment opportunities for young illegal immigrants is unlikely to gain traction in the GOP-controlled House.
Republicans last year stripped a “sense of the House” provision from an annual defense bill that inched toward allowing DACA recipients to enlist in the military.
Despite the debate in Congress, the Army has nonetheless already enlisted DACA recipients through a program for legal immigrants with medical or language skills.