If ever a group of people faced a conundrum, it surely would be “Dreamers,” those 1.7 million people born in foreign countries and brought as children by their parents to be raised in the United States, without benefit of citizenship.
Ignorance among conservative Americans about the plight of these Dreamers threatens to put them on a cruel, terrifying path back to their origins.
Other, more informed conservatives lack compassion and simply don’t care what hardships the Dreamers might face.
Raised as Americans and often knowing little to nothing about other cultures, the Dreamers essentially became foreigners in the nations of their birth.
They might not even know the language of their parents because of the Americanization process many immigrants embrace.
They were children brought to the U.S. by their parents. They had no choice in the matter.
Being deported to a country where they might not have any family or friends would be shattering in terms of finding employment to finance life’s basics such as food and shelter. If the Dreamer is a member of the LGBT community, the dilemma can, for obvious reasons, become even more dire, depending on where they were born.
President Obama authorized, by executive order, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect the estimated 800,000 Dreamers who registered for the program, allowing them to reapply for work permits every two years. Those eligible must have been brought to the U.S. since 2007; they must have been under the age of 16 at the time they were brought to this country, and under 31 on June 15, 2012. They must also have no criminal record.
But President Trump recently announced he would cancel the DACA program in six months, a delay that gives Congress an opportunity to pass protective legislation. That announcement threw many of these young people into chaos and fear.
The biggest challenge to gaining widespread public support for Dreamers is the mistaken belief that they simply failed to apply for citizenship while living in the United States illegally. The truth is that any Dreamer living in the U.S. illegally would be deported if they applied for citizenship after cancellation of DACA.
Once, the immigration system allowed people who overstayed visas to apply for citizenship, but that changed as immigration became more controversial and regulations became more stringent. Now, without protection, any Dreamer over the age of 19 wanting to become a citizen would be required to return to their native country for up to 10 years before being eligible to apply for citizenship.
Conservatives who argue that Dreamers are a drain on federal tax dollars are also spreading misinformation.
These young people are not eligible for benefits available to citizens. Dreamers attending college generally are working at the same time, possibly with the help of scholarships and private loans. At the same time they must register with Selective Service, and they can join the armed services as a form of employment.
President Trump’s stance on Dreamers seems to have softened since his early campaign days, and he hinted he might revisit the issue if Congress fails to act within six months.
In 1986 President Reagan granted amnesty to 2 million immigrants, so there is a precedent for an act of benevolence.
The best solution would probably be new legislation by Congress, so it is essential for Americans to learn the truth about Dreamers and follow their conscience when they provide input to their congressional representatives.
David Webb is a veteran journalist with more than four decades of experience, including a stint as a staff reporter for Dallas Voice. In 2016, he received the Press Club of Dallas’ Legends Award, bestowed in large part for his work with Dallas Voice. He now lives on Cedar Creek Lake and writes for publications nationwide.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 15, 2017.