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Fixing our democracy is key to immigration reform


Diversity helps a democracy to thrive, so long as everyone can participate and have their voices heard. Yet today in the United States, an entire generation’s voice has been stifled. They are law-abiding, tax-paying individuals who make our country richer intellectually, culturally and economically. They are our workforce: teachers, military servicemembers, and doctors. They came to our country as children and have pledged and demonstrated allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. They are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in three cases that will determine the future of the DACA program and the future of the nearly 1 million aspiring Americans who could be deported if the court sides with the Trump administration’s effort to end the program.

For many DACA recipients, the United States is the only home they have ever known. Many were unaware they were undocumented immigrants until applying for a driver’s license or filling out college financial aid forms. They are a generation of young people who are like most everyday Americans except they cannot be naturalized because of our broken immigration system.

This program has broad public support. More than 80 percent of Americans favor a pathway to citizenship for these individuals, but it is now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court because of efforts by the Trump administration to cut the program suddenly and because Congress has yet to pass a comprehensive permanent solution. 

Why hasn’t Congress delivered on the will of its constituents?

Since 2001, Congress has been locked in a fierce political debate about how to address the status of those who come to our country when they are children, also referred to as DREAMers. At least 10 versions of the DREAM Act have been introduced in Congress, but they’ve all been blocked. The 2012 DACA program was created to grant DREAMers the opportunity to remain in the U.S. with work authorization because Congress had failed to pass a permanent solution. DACA gave them the opportunity to live life free from fear and offered them a bridge to the promise of a permanent solution.

The Trump administration’s decision to end DACA has thrown the lives and futures of the DREAMers and their families into chaos. They deserve the peace of mind and security of knowing they will not be removed from the country where they grew up and where they belong. They deserve to know that they will not be separated from their families to places they do not know and where, in many cases, they do not even speak the language. America is their home.

Earlier this year, the House passed the bipartisan Dream and Promise Act of 2019, but both the Senate and White House have signaled their opposition. In their refusal to support this legislation, they are ignoring their constituents who favor a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.

If our legislators were truly representative, reflective, and responsive to the people whom they serve, Congress would listen to the American people: implement just reforms that would put power back into the hands of the American people where it belongs.

H.R. 1, the For the People Act, is a sweeping set of democracy reforms that would end the dominance of big money and corporate interests in Washington, D.C. This bill passed through the House of Representatives months ago but has been blocked in the Senate ever since. In fact, just last week Senate leadership blocked a vote on the bill.

The Senate must pass H.R. 1 immediately. Until then, important priorities like immigration reform will continue to fall by the wayside and DACA recipients will continue living in the shadows of our democracy.

The first step is for the Supreme Court to make things right for these young would-be citizens. But the court can only provide a temporary remedy. The second step is for Congress to pass a permanent solution and provide DACA recipients and their families a pathway to citizenship. Reforming our democracy is the long-term solution we need to ensure that everyone is represented in government and can play a role shaping our great country.

Virginia Kase is CEO of the League of Women Voters

Tags DACA DREAM Act For the People Act

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