Only two decades ago, civility was common in our nation’s politics. Many Americans long for those days when the word “bipartisan” was not a slur or stigma. In 2001, two well-respected senators, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) proposed the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
The DREAM Act addressed the problem of what to do with the more than half-million infants and children illegally brought to this country by their parents. Many youngsters didn’t know they were here illegally until they reached age 18 and needed legal forms for school, work or the military.
If Congress had done its job on immigration reform during the past three decades, or at least passed the DREAM Act, the U.S. Supreme Court would not be hearing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) case this week.
In 2012, President Obama, by executive order, established DACA; it replaced the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act was debated in Congress many times from 2001-2010. In 2010, it easily passed the House of Representatives but received only 55 out of the 60 needed votes in the Senate.
DACA included only those youngsters who were under age 16 when brought to this country by 2007. At the beginning of 2017, about 750,000 young people were in that program. On September 1 of that year, President Trump rescinded DACA. At times, there was talk of DACA and improved border security as a quid pro quo.
It’s been a multi-year roller coaster ride for those affected; their future remains in limbo. Many of them are now in their thirties with families and jobs, and through no fault of their own, know only the United States as their country. In 2009, the Miami Herald reported that over 500 of these young people were fighting for the U.S. in Iraq.
The DREAM Act and DACA are clear indications of our nation’s long-standing utterly dysfunctional immigration program. Until Congress makes intelligent and not purely political efforts to update our immigration policies, we will continue to have immigration crises. More and bigger border walls will not solve the overall issue.
The last major bipartisan immigration legislation was the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. In 1987, President Reagan used an executive order to legalize the status of minor children whose parents were granted amnesty under the new law.
For a while, it seemed that President Trump was sympathetic to DACA and wanted the issue resolved in a positive way. In the same month that he rescinded DACA, Trump tweeted, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people, who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!...” Another tweet at the same time said, “They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own—brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security.”
Now, DACA’s legality and the order to rescind it are before the Supreme Court. The Court’s ruling could possibly mean deportation for three-quarters of a million young people who, for most of their lives, have lived and worked here or served in the U.S. military. This is a sad commentary on our Congress and doesn’t sound very American.