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Will DREAMers’ Dreams Finally Come True?

DACA Upheld

The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, protecting thousands of immigrants across America from deportation. This ruling called attention to our thorny immigration issues, somewhat dormant while we’ve struggled with pandemic and racial-justice worries.

Unwelcome News for Trump

The Court’s decision was not news President Trump wanted to hear. His attacks on brown people of color, particularly Mexicans, began when he announced his candidacy five years ago, and have continued unabated. Obsession with funding his border wall (as TMM discussed in February, 2019) resulted in the longest Federal government shutdown in our history. Seems like ancient history nowadays, after another year of Trump’s chaos.

DREAMers’ Sacrifices Welcomed by Many

Dalia G. Larios, M.D., Harvard Medical School Grad and DACA Recipient


At the heart of the DACA debate are “DREAMERers”, kids brought here illegally by parents (through no fault of their own, advocates argue). They grew up here and many became contributing members of society. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) recently profiled heroic first responders – some of them DREAMers – risking their lives during the Coronavirus crisis to save many others’ lives.

Should they be deported to parents’ home countries, where many have never lived? Following the DACA decision, the AJC reported “while immigration is one of the more polarizing political issues in Washington, Americans are more broadly supportive of providing permanent legal status to Dreamers”.

A Battle Waged for Decades

Immigration is a vexing issue our country has been unable to resolve for decades. The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act), a bipartisan effort, was first introduced in 2001 by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), but didn’t pass – nor did it when reintroduced several times in subsequent years.

So the immigration stalemate in Congress continued, until President Barack Obama announced, in 2012, his administration would halt deportation of undocumented immigrants matching certain criteria included in DREAM. The new policy was DACA, and thousands applied for its protection.

While DACA addressed the status of the same people as DREAM, and many think they’re the same – DACA (an executive order), unlike DREAM (proposed legislation), doesn’t provide a path to citizenship for recipients. This was one of the main reasons the DREAM Act never passed: opponents accused it of granting “amnesty”, which was unpopular, and it would fail again.

In 2017, the Trump Administration announced a plan to phase out DACA, while placing the burden on Congress to devise a replacement before protections vanished. Perhaps, given its history, Trump knew Congress would be unable (again) to accomplish that, absolving him from blame for deporting DREAMers?

Multiple lawsuits challenging Trump’s plan ensued. The recent Supreme Court decision concluded the reasoning given for rescinding DACA was “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Enacted in 1946, APA prevents “unchecked authority in a particular area of government, violating the separation of powers”. The court, however, did not rule on the merits of DACA, nor prevent the government from issuing a new rescission with better rationale.

A recent Daily Kos report asserted “Trump [also] claimed Democrats ‘have abandoned DACA’. This is a lie… House Democrats passed legislation putting DACA recipients… onto a path to legalization and citizenship over a year ago. He could call Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today and tell him to put the legislation on the floor, but he won’t, because he wants to deport them.”

So Close and Yet So Far Away

Resolving Immigration demands leadership, cooperation, and the courage to compromise. In 2013, the bipartisan Senate “Gang of Eight” almost forged compromise solutions, as TMM chronicled in early 2019. Their bill, crafted by equal numbers of Democrats AND Republicans, readily passed the Senate – and might have passed the House if then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had given it a chance. As TMM argued then, why not use it now as a starting point for a long-overdue resolution of this stalemate?

In our recent past, we’ve seen the power of people – all races, nationalities, ages, genders, and sexual orientations (most recently, the Black Lives Matter movement) – coming together to raise awareness and push for change. Is it time “we the people” do that for brown people of color? Do we DEMAND our elected officials support racial justice for them and resolve these issues, once and for all?

DREAMers Are Depending on You

Given what Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor characterized as “the president’s history of vicious and racist comments about immigrants” in her scathing concurrence on the DACA ruling, it is unlikely we’ll see any constructive movement on immigration during the Trump Administration.

But we Moderates have the power to change that in November. VOTE!



Protest Photo Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta

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