Rather than voting before the winter break on a clean DREAM Act — bipartisan legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for nearly 800,000 undocumented youth who were brought to the U.S. as children, lawmakers kicked it down the road to 2018.
Per the order of President Trump, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will expire on March 5 unless Congress passes a permanent fix. Recently, three former DHS secretaries sent a letter to members of Congress, arguing that “the realistic deadline for successfully establishing a Dreamers program in time to prevent large-scale loss of work authorization and deportation protection is only weeks away, in the middle of January.” With time running out to protect DREAMers, Congress must step up and legislate now.
Protecting the DREAM
Under the DACA program, undocumented youth across the country came out of the shadows to apply, submit background checks and pay a fee. It took an enormous amount of trust for DREAMers to come forward and register as undocumented; Trump completely eroded this trust by terminating the program. Now, DREAMers worry that the information they provided to the government will be used to deport them and their loved ones. After Trump made his decision to end DACA, MPAC President Salam al-Marayati sat down with three DREAMers to hear about how the decision would impact them and their families.
For Kevin Emanuel Duarte Chon — and hundreds of thousands of other DREAMers — the end of DACA “would essentially mean my life is over.” DREAMers are highly talented people who are service members, teachers, doctors, lawyers, internet technology workers, business owners, and students. They are also our co-workers, our friends, and our neighbors who pursuing the American Dream. Trump himself has recognized that DREAMers are “absolutely incredible kids” who deserve to be treated “with heart.” According to the Pentagon, approximately 900 DREAMers currently serve in the military or have signed contracts to begin service. More than 45 percent of DREAMers are currently enrolled in high school or college.
Trump Sabotaging His Own DACA Deal
Trump has paid lip service to compromise with Congress — only to later sabotage negotiations between Republicans and Democrats by insisting that a DACA deal must include restricting asylum, limiting family-based immigration, and building a southern border wall. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi cancelled their meeting with Trump after he tweeted that he doesn’t see a potential government funding deal that includes protections for DREAMers. It has become clear that Trump is more interested in pandering to his base rather than acting as the great dealmaker he has described himself to be. Congress must work together to pass a clean DREAM Act without add-ons that harm our communities.
The reality is that President Trump continues to rile up his base with xenophobic fervor which leads to a fear-based national security strategy. With more migrants fleeing violence and human rights abuses, we are witnessing a humanitarian emergency that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) must be equipped to respond to.
Rather than promoting a $21.6 billion border wall, Trump needs to improve the recruitment and training of Border Patrol agents. Effective training is crucial for new agents as it ensures that they understand their mission. CBP must guarantee that all new agents receive proper training and Congress should allocate funding for training facilities, classrooms, and instructors. Trump has also has proposed loosening requirements for border patrol applicants like eliminating polygraph tests. But, these tests filter out undesirable candidates, as applicants frequently admit to criminal wrongdoing during these tests. Our nation needs better trained, not additional, border patrol agents.
Every day that Congress fails to pass a clean DREAM Act is another day that 800,000 DACA recipients wake up afraid of losing their future in the only country they call “home.” Their lives are at stake, and we have to defend them. Congress will only take action when you speak up.
Ryan Ahari is a policy analyst for the Muslim Public Affairs Council.