Dream big, pass clean DACA law

Daniela Arias of Tacoma, born in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1999 and taken into the U.S. as a baby, is a DACA dreamer, but she’s far from the only one. Over 18,000 DACA recipients live in our state.
Daniela Arias of Tacoma, born in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1999 and taken into the U.S. as a baby, is a DACA dreamer, but she’s far from the only one. Over 18,000 DACA recipients live in our state. News Tribune file photo

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program instituted by President Obama in 2012 has allowed more than 800,000 undocumented immigrants, 18,000 of them residing in Washington, to come out of the shadows. These young people receive work permits renewable in two-year increments. They can carry a Social Security card and a driver’s license.

The executive order was rescinded by President Trump in September. And while the U-Turn was fueled by the administration’s brash nativist instincts, maybe in the big picture it wasn’t such a bad thing.

DACA was a Band-Aid. It conferred no legal status. It didn’t advance so-called “Dreamers” on a road toward citizenship, years after they were brought to the U.S. by parents who overstayed visas or crossed the border illegally.

Only a bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation will provide a lasting solution.

Enter the Dream Act, a bill currently before Congress that would grant permanent residency and a path to citizenship via higher education, military service or employment.

According to a Politico survey, most Americans support Dreamers; that includes two-thirds of Trump supporters who don’t wish these young people deported for crimes they didn’t commit.

Some of the loudest advocates have been leaders from across the religious spectrum. They’re calling on elected federal leaders to employ compassion and mercy while making a down payment on a comprehensive immigration fix.

They recognize the obvious: Dreamers have been raised as Americans. The median age of arrival to the U.S. is 6 years old. Many have served in our military and continue to do so. Fifteen percent have four-year degrees and 72 percent have lived in the U.S. for ten years or more.

The trouble is, Trump says he won’t grant protection for Dreamers without horse trading. He wants border security and enforcement tools as part of any immigration reform package. So members of Congress have offered, by turns, The RAC Act, The Succeed Act, The Bridge Act, The Raise Act, The Border Security for America Act, and other proposals.

Getting real action on one of these myriad acts will take a Christmas miracle; it requires 218 votes in the House and a 60-vote majority in the Senate. Meanwhile, the clock ticks down and nearly 1,000 DACA recipients lose their status each day.

The political hurdle hasn’t deterred Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland from expressing hope.

She’s specifically looking at Rep. Dave Reichert of Auburn to talk sense into his fellow Republicans and help pass a clean Dream Act this year, unfettered by provisions for a border wall, drone surveillance and larger immigrant lockups in places like Tacoma, site of the Northwest Detention Center.

Strickland wants Reichert to consider the 42,000 Dream Act-eligible individuals in our state, including 3,300 in his district. “We want to make sure these young people who know no other home than the United States can continue to go to school, go to work and live their lives,” Strickland said on a conference call with other Dreamer advocates last week.

The moderate-minded Reichert already has said his sympathies lie with Dreamers. But he’s a short-timer after announcing in September he won’t run for an eighth term in 2018. The biggest name (and easily the biggest fund-raiser) vying for his 8th Congressional District seat is Republican state Sen. Dino Rossi, who is more of a wild card on this issue.

Reichert and his colleagues don’t have to listen to fellow politicians like Strickland to do the right thing; they need only consult the sentiments of the American people.

They should do all they can to pass clean Dream legislation before year’s end, and keep pressure on Trump to join them.