With commencement season well underway in our nation, close to 3 million college graduates will receive their degrees with emotions that alternate between relief, excitement, and, most especially, eager anticipation for the future.
But for tens of thousands of graduates known as Dreamers, these events bring nothing but anxiety and uncertainty over whether or not they will even be allowed to stay and work in this country.
These exceptional and high-achieving individuals, who were brought to the United States as children, have been living in an unacceptable legal and political limbo ever since President Trump’s September 2017 decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
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When he rescinded DACA, President Trump proposed that Congress approve a fix that would extend legal status to Dreamers who were impacted by his action.
In the meantime, federal courts have blocked the action and the Supreme Court has not yet taken up the case, meaning DACA remains intact, only allowing for renewals but not new registrations. Moreover, Congress has failed to act, tied up by larger, more controversial immigration and border security issues, effectively holding the Dreamers hostage. And the new proposal the White House rolled out this week addressing merit-based immigration does not address the issue of protecting Dreamers.
At the end of the day, Congress and the president must work together to forge a permanent legislative solution on this one issue and not allow these outstanding individuals to continue to live in fear. Instead, they should be granted the permanent legal status to continue to work, attend school, serve in the military, and contribute in countless ways to this country’s economy and security.
These individuals are Americans in every way but immigration status and continue to suffer because of uncertainties beyond their control. Individuals like Linett Isela Lopez, who was brought here at the age of 15 and eventually was able to enroll at the University of Houston-Downtown. She wants to be a teacher after she graduates but worries constantly how her DACA status will impact her future.
Then there is 23-year-old Kebin Lopez of South Carolina, who came to the U.S. when he was 6. He was initially accepted to two law schools in Georgia but subsequently rejected because of his DACA status. “I feel like people should be fighting for us because we are South Carolinians, we are Georgians, we are people who have pretty much been here our whole lives,” he said.
Bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate that would offer protection and a path to citizenship for Dreamers. Yet, neither Democrats in the House nor Republicans in the Senate have been able to bring any legislation to a vote.
This delay in providing a solution is particularly frustrating because it should not be this hard. In a hopelessly divided country, there is rare bipartisan and widespread support across the country for extending permanent legal protections and a pathway to citizenship to Dreamers. A Fox News poll, conducted shortly after the president announced the DACA rescission, found 86 percent of registered voters were in favor of granting work permits and U.S. citizenship to illegal immigrants under the age of 30 brought here as children. A Gallup survey last year found that 83 percent of Americans, including 75 percent of Republicans, favor or strongly favor a proposal to allow Dreamers the chance to become U.S. citizens. And newspaper editorial boards across the ideological spectrum, from The New York Times to The Wall Street Journal have advocated for protecting Dreamers.
We urge Congress to swiftly pass legislation, as the president has requested, to safeguard the futures of these bright and talented young people. The time to act is not just now. It’s long past overdue.