Immigrant youth need a clean DREAM Act


Earlier this month, when the Trump administration killed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, immigrant youth leaders and our allies immediately sprang into action.

In cities and states across the country, we took to the streets, to courthouses, the halls of Congress and the White House to defend our future. Since then, immigrant youth from red and blue states have been on Capitol Hill every day calling for a clean DREAM Act without dangerous enforcement add-ons, which would hurt our families and border communities.

{mosads}Often, in the Washington press, DACA has been covered as an “Obama-era immigration policy.” While it’s true that President Obama did create DACA in 2012 through executive action, it was immigrant youth who courageously stood their ground and pressured Obama to establish the program. It was not something Democratic President Obama would have done without our consistent pressure.

For the past five years, nearly a million immigrants in this country have been able to go to school, work, start businesses, buy homes and build lives here because of this program. It has provided a sense of safety, opportunities and protection from deportation and from America’s horrific immigrant detention camps.

DACA’s widespread popularity and success has fueled an important national movement and rallying cry from immigrant youth: we are here to stay.

The best way for Congress to stand up for immigrant youth and our families is through a clean DREAM Act that includes a clear path to citizenship and no anti-immigrant gimmicks.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act is legislation with a long history of bipartisan support, and fully two thirds of Republicans support a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth. It is straightforward and would protect the young people put at risk by Trump’s decision to kill DACA. It says that if you arrived in this country under the age of 18 and meet other requirements you can qualify. The bill reflects the hopes, dreams and aspirations of millions and is the result of countless hours of meetings and discussions between immigrant youth leaders and congressional offices.

A clean DREAM Act solves a problem without creating more pain for immigrants. It would be wrong for Republicans or Democrats in Congress to use the anguish being felt by immigrant youth and families today as an excuse to ram through a white supremacist laundry list of more deportation agents, more armed agents in border communities and more detention camps targeting our parents and our community.

To the Washington insiders who scoff at the idealism of immigrant youth in this moment, I ask you: Why would I or anyone advocate for a plan which would save my brother, who has DACA, and put a hit out on my mom?

Congressional leaders who claim to support immigrants must ditch the notion that most immigrants must suffer so that young people can be protected.

The leader of Trump’s deportation force told a congressional hearing that no group of undocumented immigrants is “off the table” and that all undocumented people should be looking over their shoulders.

We know that Trump’s immigration agents have already planned the largest immigration raids in American history and are becoming more emboldened every day that Congress does not act. The danger to us and our families cannot be overstated.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) looked Angelica Villalobos, a DACA beneficiary, United We Dream member and mother of four in the eye and told her that she would be safe. Yet in her moment of crisis, Ryan set up a committee led by anti-immigrant members of Congress to deliberate her fate.

Other members of Congress are promoting other bills that would force immigrant youth to sign away their right to a court hearing and to walk on eggshells for 15 years with the threat of deportation hanging over their heads, and yet others are talking about bills with all sorts of anti-immigrant provisions.

We are asking lawmakers to do the right thing and not let politics as usual get in the way because our lives are on the line.

Our communities have suffered enough, and we will keep fighting until everyone in our community is protected.

The killing of DACA has created an urgent and potentially life-ending problem that Congress must solve. In just days, immigrant youth will be barred from renewing their DACA applications, and soon tens of thousands of immigrant youth will become fully vulnerable to the impulses of Trump’s deportation agents.

Congress must step up during this moral crisis and pass a clean DREAM Act now.

Jiménez is executive director and co-founder of United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the United States.

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