Lately, I have been thinking about the word “righteous” and its application to our immigration laws. Is it righteous to deport hardworking parents, separate families and engage in mass deportation? Is it righteous to strip people of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)? Why can’t our leadership follow the righteous path to work on sensible legislative fixes to our immigration system? There is so much wrong going on right now.
The DREAM Act was a bipartisan bill first introduced in 2001 by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). When I first heard about it, I was about 18 months out of law school, still getting acquainted with the ever-changing field of immigration law. Now, 16 years later, I have seen the bill be reintroduced and reintroduced and…well, you get the picture. In December 2010, the DREAM Act came as close as we have seen to becoming law. It passed the House but failed in the Senate by five votes. Yes, just FIVE votes!
At that time, I recall the emotions felt by many in the undocumented community. It was a painful experience for them. Their hopes for the future were dashed by the leadership of this country. Many were forced into activism as a means of survival, when all they really wanted to do was to live a normal life of school, work, and family. Some dealt with the pain of disappointment with humor. I recall one of my friends joking that we will be hoping for a DREAM Act in 2045 when most of the “Dreamers” will be in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Sadly, with every passing year, that joke is coming closer to reality.
So, here we are today, July 21, 2017, and the Dream Act is back! Starring Sen. Durbin (again) and his new co-star (in the role originally played by Orrin Hatch), Lindsey Graham (R-SC). There have been more than 20 bills introduced which have attempted to pass a form of relief for Dreamers or have incorporated provisions of the Dream Act. This lack of progress has been a drain on the hope of a generation.
And what a generation! These young people are amazing. They know the United States as their home. They are dedicated and committed to its success and we need to return the favor. It is time to do the right thing and turn DACA into something permanent. But winning the Dream for Dreamers should only be the beginning because our country deserves sensible immigration reforms more broadly.
DACA has been a godsend for many, but it has not been a one-way road. DACA recipients have, in turn, rewarded our country by using their work permits to pursue their education goals, fill employment gaps and contribute to our shared prosperity. Many are now taxpayers who have leased or purchased cars, rented property, pay monthly bills or started small businesses. I have personally witnessed this happen and its incredible to see the beneficiaries thrive.
That’s one of the many reasons that we have to call on the Administration to preserve DACA until Congress can pass the Dream Act of 2017. Anti-immigrant voices are on a crusade to end the program, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who has threatened to sue the Trump Administration if DACA isn’t ended by September 5. It makes zero sense, on an economic or moral level, to suddenly strip hundreds of thousands of individuals of their work permits and make them targets for deportation.
Back to the word “righteous.” If you agree with me and support the Dream Act, you should follow the righteous path and let your congressional representatives know that they should speak out in support of the Dream Act and call on the Administration to defend DACA. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his famed “I Have a Dream” speech, “No, no, we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Let’s push that path towards righteousness and create that mighty stream through your calls, your e-mails and your support!