Congress dithers on DACA, but why?

Congress dithers on DACA, but why?
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You are 10 years old. In Honduras, your native country, your maternal grandfather has been murdered, his fingers chopped off. A great-uncle also has been murdered, and when thugs learn that your mother’s purse is empty, they threaten to beat her up. Your parents have had enough. Your family makes its way from Honduras through Mexico across the Rio Grande and into Texas.

“I was scared,” says Dixy, now 20. “There are some parts of what happened that I blocked out, but I was scared.” After crossing the border, you and your mother are locked up in a McAllen, Texas, detention center. Your father eludes capture.


At this point, Dixy — she has asked me not to use her last name — catches a break.  Because of the violence against her family, she and her mother are allowed to remain in the United States. They make their way to Alexandria, Virginia, where Dixy enters the 5th grade. It’s hard, but learning English is easy for her, and she begins to think of America as her home.


In 2012, Dixy learns that she has a future. Through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), and thanks to former Washington Post publisher Donald Graham’s TheDream.US scholarship program, she completes honors courses at Northern Virginia Community College and transfers to George Mason University. Today Dixy is a straight-A student majoring in elementary education. Her dream is to graduate and then go on to an accelerated master’s program and teach English as a second language.

Not so fast, Dixy — some politicians are trying to slow you down. Unless Congress acts soon, DACA will expire, putting the future of nearly 800,000 young immigrants, like you, the Dreamers, in jeopardy. In fact, according to estimates from  the Center for American Progress, over 100 DACA recipients already are losing their DACA status each day.

Virginia Republican Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteGOP divide in Congress over Rosenstein's future Jordan wants Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee House Judiciary chair threatens subpoena if DOJ doesn’t supply McCabe memos by Tuesday MORE says, “Whether the Dreamers came in illegally, or whether they entered the country legally and overstayed a visa or visa waiver, they should be required to leave. That’s what the law says and that’s how the law should be enforced.”

Goodlatte is out of step with mainstream public opinion. Public opinion polls consistently show that most Americans — eight out of 10 — want young people such as Dixy to remain here. Feeling that pressure, a majority of Republicans and Democrats in Congress say they want to protect them. President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: Dems playing destructive 'con game' with Kavanaugh Several Yale Law classmates who backed Kavanaugh call for misconduct investigation Freedom Caucus calls on Rosenstein to testify or resign MORE says he does, too, provided he gets his border wall — a wall that even border state Republicans oppose.

It is important to note that the proposed Dream Act now before Congress has bipartisan, bicameral support and focuses only on protecting those Dreamers impacted by Trump’s decision to end the DACA program. It’s a straightforward, uncomplicated fix to what should be a consensus piece of legislation.

Still, Congress dithers and if it continues to do so, DACA will expire, and Dixy will face deportation.

“I’ve lived almost half my life here,” Dixy says. “I want to be able to teach and I want to be able to help other students in any way that is necessary.”

Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration reform organization, says, “Dreamers are Americans. They grew up here. They contribute here. They belong here. Anything less than enacting legislation to recognize these truths will degrade and diminish who we are. History is watching.”

So are the voters. Why in an election year would Congress give the back of the hand to young immigrants such as Dixy when most Americans are pulling for them? Like so many other things in Washington these days, it boggles the mind.

Gordon Peterson is an award-winning broadcast journalist, who was one of Washington’s most celebrated television news anchors for 45 years, on Washington’s ABC affiliate WJLA-TV and CBS affiliate WUSA-TV.  For 25 years, Peterson was moderator and executive producer of the weekly political roundtable program “Inside Washington,” which aired on PBS stations.