Today we applaud the passage of H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 by the United States House of Representatives. I had the amazing opportunity to sit in the Gallery and watch the historic floor proceedings for this bill.

The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6) addresses the plight of innocent children and youth living in the United States who have found themselves held captive by our country’s broken immigration system. By offering permanent relief from deportation for “Dreamers” and thousands of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders, this bill will also ensure protections for the more than half a million U.S. citizen children.

Members of congress who stepped up to speak on behalf of H.R. 6 voiced their support or opposition passionately. Members in opposition relied on fear-mongering and immigrant stereotypes to make their case against the bill.  Disturbingly, one member yelled out in the chamber “Build a wall,” as his colleagues laughed beside him. 

Meanwhile, members who supported the bill lifted up stories of courageous and resilient “Dreamers”, TPS and DED holders in their home districts. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-CO, rose in support of H.R. 6 and spoke passionately about his own experience as the son of African refugees: “The fact that I am able to stand in this chamber with all of you today is proof that the American dream is real, and I want it to be attainable for generations to come. That is why we must pass H.R. 6.”  

More than 300 advocates, allies, Dreamers, TPS and DED holders waited patiently for several hours to watch the process unfold. As the voting began viewers in the gallery held hands, and the room was filled with anticipation. The gallery erupted as it became clear the bill would pass, and tears were flowing from young people and families across the room. They were visible. They had been seen by the most important governing body in the United States.

The minority leader, Rep. Doug Collins questioned the motive of a bill that is not likely to be taken up in the Senate. Ultimately, he said this vote was a message bill and a waste of the members’ time.

He could not have been more wrong. This vote was important. After years of stereotypes and fear-mongering, the young people and families in the gallery and across the nation needed to know that there is someone in their corner.

They needed to see members of Congress wearing bright green sashes in solidarity with them. They needed to see the tears on the face of Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, as she saw the final vote count. Allies and friends of the immigrant community like myself needed to hear that America is still a nation committed to diversity and inclusion. We needed this vote. 

I left the United States Capitol in solidarity with a group of deeply invested young people. Their tears and joy will stick with me throughout my career, and I will forever be grateful for the Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who listened to the American public, ignored partisan rhetoric and put forward a bill that will improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of children.