Vice President’s Ceremonial Office
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
4:03 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it is an honor to welcome all of you to the Ceremonial Office of the Vice President of the United States. I want to, in particular, thank the two colleagues of mine in the United States Senate who have been extraordinary leaders on so many issues and, in particular, were very instrumental on the occasion that brings us here today, which is DACA and this anniversary of DACA. They have been tireless in their fight in the United States Senate and the United States Congress.
So I want to thank Senator Durbin and Senator Menendez, in particular, for your leadership and your friendship on this issue and so many others.
So, one week after I was sworn into the United States Senate as a member of the Homeland Security Committee — and that was in 2017, in January of 2017 — I was in a hearing. And in the hearing — there was a hearing for the nomination of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. I remember that hearing quite well.
And I asked him a number of questions, but I was very specific in the subject that I was talking with him about, which was DACA. And, as you know, the Committee on Homeland Security has a range of areas that it is responsible for overseeing, but I was particularly interested in how this nominee thought of the role of our government on the issue of DACA.
And so I asked him questions, and I asked him about how he felt about, of course, DACA, which is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. And this, of course, started by the Obama administration in June of 2012.
And we know it was under threat by the administration at the time. And I was concerned about how the secretary — the nominee — would approach it. So I asked him, General John Kelly — I asked, “Are you willing to maintain DACA? Are you willing to maintain the policy?” And he refused to answer the question directly.
And I will tell you, we are here on this day, on the anniversary of DACA, and I’m here on behalf of the Biden-Harris administration to tell you this administration fully intends to do everything in our power to protect our DREAMers. There will be no question about that. There is no question about that.
And it is really for one simple reason — and this I say to our DREAMers: because you are home. This is the only home you’ve known. And this issue is as fundamental as that.
And so, on this day, I want to thank all of you for also doing the work that you’ve been doing to work with members of Congress. We have two of the greatest leaders from Congress here. But it’s been the work of working as a coalition with members of Congress to clear a pathway to citizenship. And it has been a pathway to citizenship for our DREAMers, for our farmworkers, for individuals with temporary protected status.
Even with DACA in place, we know that DREAMers live in a constant state of fear about their status and about their future. And it is critically important that we provide a pathway to citizenship to give people a sense of certainty and a sense of security.
The House of Representatives, of course, has passed the American Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. We are calling on the Senate to do the same. And these two have been two of the greatest leaders in that regard.
I know that, this morning, Chairman Durbin and the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the American Dream and Promise Act, and tomorrow, talks will continue with a bipartisan group of senators.
In addition, Chairman Menendez has been leading the way on the U.S. Citizenship Act. And again, I want to thank you both for your leadership, because it has not been easy to do what you have been doing for years in this fight.
Over the years, I have met with so many who are students, who are determined to serve our communities; farm workers who work hard every day feeding our communities, and highlighted by the incredible courage and hard work they did during the course of this pandemic; care workers who risked their own lives during the course of this pandemic, every day, out of a commitment to follow through on their life of service by being frontline workers and being those people who the whole system relied on when almost everything else failed.
So, the immigrants that we are talking about are making the incredible contributions to our nation and, dare I say, as we all know, history. This is a nation that was founded by immigrants. So, in this regard, there’s not much that is new, except perhaps some people’s perspective about what should happen at this moment in our history versus what has happened in the past.
But it is time for us to correct course. It is time for us to renew our embrace of the traditions in the history of America, and create a pathway for citizenship.
So there is an urgency to this moment. And your stories are America’s stories, and that’s why we’re here today: to share stories and to renew our commitment to this issue, both in terms of making progress, seeing action, but also making it very clear that when we’re talking about a fundamental issue that is about safety and security and citizenship, we should create a pathway and allow people that opportunity — people who, in many cases, for decades have been serving our country with courage and commitment.
So, with that, I thank you all for being here. And I’m looking forward to our discussion. Thank you.
END 4:09 P.M. EDT