Thursday , September 07, 2017 - 4:30 AM1 comment
The Trump administration's announcement that the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program will be rescinded should prompt needed congressional action to protect young immigrants whose sole offense was being brought here by their parents.
Giving the Congress six months to act before DACA permits begin to expire, President Trump issued a statement criticizing President Obama for "making an end-run around Congress and violating the core tenets that sustain our Republic" by creating the program.
"There can be no path to principled immigration reform if the executive branch is able to rewrite or nullify federal laws at will," he said.
While the details of any possible future immigration reform effort remain to be hammered out, it is imperative that DACA recipients are finally given the sort of permanent protections that can only be achieved through the legislative process.
Approximately 800,000 young immigrants, mostly in their 20s, are currently protected by DACA, with many more potentially eligible. This includes 222,795 Californians who have received DACA protections.
Far from an open-borders policy, the DACA program responsibly limited eligibility to undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday, arrived here prior to June 2007 and have lived here ever since.
Eligible applicants must either be in school, have graduated from high school or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military. Under the program, young immigrants are eligible to have deportations deferred and may legally work in the United States, with renewals required every two years.
For all intents and purposes, these immigrants are as American as native-born Americans, with many having no memory of or any meaningful connection to the country in which they were born. To punish young people for having been brought to the United States as children by their parents, beyond their control, would be an unconscionable disregard of people who have done nothing wrong.
Clearly, the DACA program, which only provided temporary protections by way of an easily discarded, legally shaky executive action, was not a viable long-term solution.
With President Trump's decision to allow Congress six months in which to act, Congress must not allow the future of potentially over one million young immigrants to be thrown into turmoil due simply to political inertia.
Fortunately, bipartisan legislation has already been introduced, including the DREAM Act of 2017 (S.1615), sponsored by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Democrats including California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. The proposal would provide a path to citizenship for young, law-abiding undocumented immigrants.
It is vital that Congress not perpetuate needless confusion and harm by allowing our currently dysfunctional immigration laws to become a weapon against young immigrants. The Congress must act quickly to bring certainty and dignity to the Dreamers and allow them to live as the Americans they already are.
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