SEPT. 7, 2017 — The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program isn’t lost yet. Members of Congress can save it by doing what once was commonplace — working across the aisle to advance common interests. The fate of about 800,000 immigrants — brought here as children by their undocumented parents — is ample inspiration for bipartisanship.
When Congress failed to legislate DACA, President Barack Obama created the program in 2012 by executive order. On Sept. 5, the Trump administration rescinded the order, delighting Republicans who have taken a hard line on immigration as well as those who disapproved of Obama’s end run around the legislative branch.
But these aren’t the border scofflaws Americans love to hate. DACA protects young immigrants, known as the Dreamers, who enjoy much public sympathy. They’re here through no action of their own. America is the only home many of them ever have known, and they have become acculturated to the American way. Many are in the military or in college, learning the knowledge and skills the American economy demands.
While immigration remains a national flashpoint — and there’s no shame in any nation wanting to control its borders — protecting the Dreamers would be in keeping with American immigration history. The nation has taken a practical approach to immigration, welcoming immigrants because we needed them. Irish immigrants helped to build the Erie Canal, while those from eastern and southern Europe worked in the mines and mills. During the Bracero Program, in place from 1942 to 1964, millions of Mexican agricultural workers from Mexico traveled to America to meet labor shortages.
Now, there’s sound basis for suggesting that America needs the Dreamers, too, and that deporting them would be cutting off our nose to spite our face, given the resources the nation already has invested in them.
Some parts of the country face dire shortages of workers. Why couldn’t the Dreamers fill some of these slots?
Some Republican congressmen realize the Dreamers’ special status — House Speaker Paul Ryan was among those who wanted Mr. Trump to keep DACA intact — and they now have the opportunity to rally support within their party or work with Democrats to save the program through legislation. Additional border security measures may be part of the deal.
Trump, an immigration hard-liner who has had kind words for the Dreamers, has given Congress six months to act. That’s plenty of time to get the job done.