President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — or DACA — program is a heartless and grave mistake. We should never be a country that kicks out some of our best and brightest students.
Under the DACA program implemented five years ago by the Obama Administration, undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children — also known as Dreamers — have been able to apply for temporary protection from deportation and live without fear in their communities.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of New Mexico’s estimated 7,000 Dreamers. I’ve met students who grew up here as children and are now striving to become doctors, scientists, teachers, and serve in the military. These young people are our children’s classmates, they are next door neighbors, they are colleagues, they are family members, and they are truly rising stars. These inspiring young people are Americans in every sense of the word except on paper.
Today is the deadline imposed by the Trump Administration for DACA recipients to apply for a two-year renewal of their status. My office has assisted Dreamers through the DACA renewal process and is actively participating in meetings with communities and local advocacy groups throughout the state. But President Trump’s decision means that even those who apply will still face deep uncertainty about whether they will be able to stay in school, keep working and contributing to our economy, or remain in their communities.
Threatening to deport young people who grew up in America and want to contribute to their nation will not fix our broken immigration system. Making the American people foot the bill to build an unnecessary and wasteful border wall that families in New Mexico’s border communities have told me they do not want or need will not fix our broken immigration system.
With the deep uncertainty Dreamers now face, it is clear that Congress must act with urgency to pass the DREAM Act into law. I have long supported the DREAM Act, which would create a pathway to legal status and citizenship for Dreamers who pursue higher education or serve our nation in uniform. This commonsense, compassionate, and responsible policy is long overdue for a generation of young Americans. We must pass the DREAM Act into law right away.
Dreamers came forward and provided personal information about themselves and their families to apply for the DACA program based on the promise that our government would not deport them. To use this against them would be an extraordinary and unprecedented breach of trust by our government. That is why I have also introduced the Protect DREAMer Confidentiality Act to safeguard Dreamers’ private information — such as addresses and telephone numbers — so the Trump Administration can’t use it to target them or their families for deportation.
But we shouldn’t stop there. Leaders in Congress have waited far too long on finally addressing our nation’s broken immigration system. We must act now to pass comprehensive legislation that includes a visa system that meets the needs of our economy, a tough but fair path to earned citizenship for the estimated 11 million people in our country who are undocumented, and a plan that ensures safety and security at our borders.
When I think about immigration, I always wonder how different my own life would be if America had turned my father away when he immigrated here as a young boy.
Our nation’s enduring spirit has been built by the hard work and dreams of so many striving young immigrants, like my father in the 1930s, and like so many Dreamers today.
No member of Congress should be able to rest until Dreamers are able to rest easy knowing they will be able to stay in the only nation they call home.