Americans find the so-called Dreamers—undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children—particularly sympathetic. The Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program allowed these young people to come out of the shadows, and their stories are undeniably compelling. But it never made sense to me why so many people praise the Dreamers and, often in the same breath, condemn the parents who sacrificed everything to bring them to the United States.
Many of my close friends are Dreamers, and without congressional action they and everyone currently covered by DACA will be subject to deportation by the end of Mr. Trump’s first term. Congress must act quickly to put Dreamers on a path to citizenship. (Recent reports suggest a deal may be in the works.) Polls show that most Americans, including a solid majority of Trump supporters, think Dreamers should have the chance to become citizens. This is a rare chance at bipartisanship and unity in the best tradition of American values. I am optimistic we can accomplish this.
The cost of the Dreamers’ future and security may be a more draconian policy for other immigrants.
What worries me is that in the political deal-making, the cost of the Dreamers’ future and security may be a more draconian policy for other immigrants. I cringe when I hear from politicians variations of “It’s not the Dreamers’ fault. Their parents broke the law.” If it was not their fault, then whose fault was it? With rhetoric like this, we attempt to defend the kids by demeaning the parents.
Of course, words matter less than lives, results matter more than rhetoric, and if politicians need to sell a tough vote by saying what they need to, then so be it. But for those of us not facing a tough re-election battle, let us remember there is nothing shameful in sacrificing everything to build a better life for your children. The Dreamers’ parents left the only country they had ever known so that their kids could dream. It has been said before, but the parents are the original Dreamers.
There is nothing shameful in sacrificing everything to build a better life for your children.
I am sure many of the Dreamer moms and dads would happily sacrifice themselves yet again and accept a political deal that makes life harder for them if it gives their children the chance of citizenship. But what child would want that? What friend or ally to those children could accept that?
The fight for the Dreamers is a fight for every immigrant. We fight for them today so we can fight for everyone else tomorrow. If we cannot protect the group of immigrants that is most integrated, most visible and most “sympathetic,” how can we protect their parents? If we cannot appreciate medical students and valedictorians, how can we appreciate day laborers and farm workers? If we cannot welcome those here already, how can we welcome those who are banned from this country because of their nationality or the parents who have already been deported or the refugees around the world fleeing violence and persecution? This fight is for my friends. But this is also a fight over what kind of country Americans want to live in.
The fight for the Dreamers is a fight for every immigrant.
Passing the Dream Act is the priority right now both because it is politically feasible and because those covered by DACA are in a unique danger. They have passed criminal background checks, paid large fees and given over personal information like home addresses and fingerprints to the government. All would be easy targets for deportation. But in awe-inspiring acts of courage, many Dreamers have come out against any political deal that would result in their families being torn apart. Those of us privileged with citizenship who claim to be in solidarity with Dreamers must not settle for such an outcome either.
We must say to Dreamers: We are never going to stop fighting for your families. We will not lose sight of the bigger picture: a moral and just outcome for immigrants that aligns with Catholic social teaching and reflects the best of American values for all 11 million undocumented people who are our neighbors in this country. The parents of Dreamers deserve protection and a path to citizenship, in recognition of their sacrifices and the significant contributions many have made to our country.
The two things in my life that I love most are my friends and my country. It has been hard to watch my country be so cruel to so many of my friends. Only through just immigration reform can this breach be reconciled. What kind of friend would I be if I accepted leaving my friends’ families behind? What kind of country would we be if we accepted pitting the interests of children against their parents? Resolving the issue of the Dreamers and their families with mercy, justice and compassion is a crucial moral test, not just for our elected leaders but for all of us.