Commentary: Congress must step in to protect DREAMers

DACA successfully brought 800,000 young immigrants out of the shadows and allowed them to continue working to improve this great country they call home.

Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA chant slogans and carry signs while joining a Labor Day rally in downtown Los Angeles, Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Tuesday the Trump administration announced its decision to rescind DACA and allow it to expire after six months. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) provides critical protection and work authorization for upstanding members of our communities who were brought into this country as children. DACA successfully brought 800,000 young immigrants out of the shadows and allowed them to continue working to improve this great country they call home.

In order to qualify for DACA, these young people had to meet a set of very strict criteria. For example, they had to have been brought to the United States as children before 2012, they have to have lived here continuously since 2007, they must be either enrolled in school or have finished school or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or the armed forces. In addition, they must have no serious criminal record and must not pose any kind of a threat to national security or public safety. 

These young people, the so-called DREAMers, have faced and overcome extraordinary hardships. They have survived and thrived in a country that has at times treated them with hostility. They are going to school and working and paying taxes and starting families and buying homes. They speak many different languages and act as a bridge between communities. They are hard-working, law-abiding and eager to contribute to society, even when faced with the reality that their hard work and dreams and even their families can be torn from their hands at a moment’s notice.

Which is exactly what will happen because of Tuesday’s announcement, unless Congress and people of conscience everywhere take action immediately.

As part of the process of filing for DACA protection, these 800,000 young DREAMers were required to provide the Department of Homeland Security with all of their vital information. As a result, ICE has all the information it would need to begin rounding them up and deporting them to countries many of them don’t even remember. Because these DREAMers took affirmative steps to file the proper paperwork and pay the necessary fees and appear at the required appointments in order to obtain legal authorization to work in this country and contribute to our communities, they would be at the mercy of ICE officers who would be ordered to detain and deport them with no exceptions.

Worse still, while ICE would be spending its limited resources summarily rounding up 800,000 individuals who by definition pose no risk to society, they would be unable to do their duty to protect us from others who are here or seeking to enter to do us harm. This is the type of moral and ethical failing that we cannot tolerate.

Beginning in 2001, Congress has made several attempts to pass various versions of the bipartisan DREAM Act which would protect these young people and give them a path to citizenship. For over 15 years, Congress has failed to pass that legislation because of political considerations, despite that fact that a great majority of Americans (nearly 80 percent) support this kind of a permanent solution.

We cannot abide any further delay on this matter. The Trump administration has put the ball in Congress’s court. We urge Congress do the right thing and honor the will of the majority of Americans by passing The DREAM Act of 2017.

We do not dispute that immigration is a complicated matter upon which good people may disagree, but we see no legitimate, honorable alternative here. The time is now for our members of Congress to do everything within their power to protect these Dreamers before their protection from DACA expires.

From: Diana Bate Hardy, Portland, Ore., is the Immigration Committee lead for Mormon Women for Ethical Government. She is a graduate of BYU Law School and practiced law for a number of years before taking a break to focus on raising her family. Sharlee Mullins Glenn, Pleasant Grove, Utah, is an independent scholar, an award-winning author, an accidental activist, frequent presenter at conferences and workshops and a co-founder of Mormon Women for Ethical Government. Melissa Dalton-Bradford, Frankfurt, Germany, is an author, humanitarian, public speaker, international consultant, activist, wife, mother of four and a co-founder of Mormon Women for Ethical Government. Linda Hoffman Kimball, Woodland, Utah, is an author and artist, editor-in-chief of Segullah, and a co-founder of Mormon Women for Ethical Government. Mormon Women for Ethical Government is a nonpartisan group dedicated to the ideals of decency, honor, accountability, transparency and justice in governing.