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home : opinion : opinion August 15, 2018

9/7/2017 12:32:00 PM
The Plight Of The DREAMers Should Concern Us All
DREAMers came from different countries--some from Mexico, others from other places. All have in common that they are in the US illegally--and that they came here as children.
DREAMers came from different
countries--some from Mexico, others
from other places. All have in common
that they are in the US illegally--and
that they came here as children.

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer

They are called DREAMers. The name comes from the DREAM Act, (DREAM being an acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) a legislative proposal first introduced in the US Senate on August 1, 2001 (S. 1291) by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). It has been reintroduced several times since, but it has never been passed. The DREAM Act would have created a multi-phase process that would have first granted alien minors in the United States conditional residency and, upon meeting further qualifications, permanent residency.

The average DREAMer is in his or her mid-20s, according to a survey published by the University of California at San Diego. All were under 31 as of June 15, 2012, came to the US when they were under 16, and have lived here continuously since at least 2007, according to guidelines posted by US Citizenship and Immigration Services. None have been convicted of a felony, a serious misdemeanor or three misdemeanors of any kind. DREAMers aren’t protected from deportation if after qualifying for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) they commit a felony or other serious crimes.

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DACA was created by an executive order by former President Obama, who realized that it was inherently unfair to hold undocumented immigrants responsible for violating immigration law when the violation occurred when they were children.

Some have argued that Obama overstepped his authority in creating DACA; among them President Trump, who has now decreed that DACA will cease to exist in six months, making all the DREAMers who have been protected from deportation by it subject to immediate deportation. What's more, thanks to DACA, the Immigration Service now has a list of all the DREAMers, making them easier to find and deport than some other illegal aliens.

DACA was never intended as a path to citizenship--unlike the DREAM Act. It was a stop-gap measure to avoid deportation for these childhood arrivals. It gave them the right to legally work in the US. Obama issued the order in hopes of Congress acting to change immigration law, possibly finally adopting the DREAM Act.

The DREAMers aren't criminals; under DACA, they can't be. Their only serious crime--committed when they were children--was coming to this country illegally. Most of them were so young, they had no choice. Their parents--or another relative--brought them here. Most of them also have relatives, in some cases their parents and in others their US-born children, who are US citizens. Until now, they have been living normal lives--going to school, working, paying taxes--just like US citizens.

There are 800,000 of them. Many of them are filling jobs for which employers will find hard it hard to find replacements if Congress doesn't change the laws or reinstate DACA.

They have as much right to be here as the ancestors of many US citizens had when they arrived and claimed as their own the lands that had previously been home to Native Americans. Most of them have lived in the US nearly their whole lives. Many do not speak any language other than English. Now they face the possibility of being deported to a strange country where they may not know the language, certainly don't know all the customs, and have no jobs waiting for them when leaving one in the US.

If any of this seems reasonable to you, you and I live in a different world. Many members of Congress (as well as an overwhelming majority of the general public) oppose deporting DREAMers, and while Republicans would like to extract concessions from Democrats in exchange for any deal, the fiscal cliff of the debt ceiling and a government-funding expiration in December might provide Democrats leverage to force through a simple authorization of a DACA extension or replacement.

One can only hope that Congress will at last do what is right instead of only what is expedient. Failure to do so will put another blemish on our country's history--and God knows we've had enough of those already.


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