President Trump's decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which gave undocumented people brought to America as children an opportunity to remain in the only country many of them have known — was cruel, but it was also a sham. Even as he tried to pull the plug on DACA, President Trump asked Congress to stop him — and Republicans know it.
Trump knows how important these young immigrants, known as DREAMERS, are to our economy, and he knows how disruptive it would be to tear families and communities apart. He said as much to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer when they met with him at the White House in the autumn.
He's not alone: The DREAM Act is supported by both Democrats and Republicans. I'm confident that if Republicans brought the bill to the floor for a vote today, it would pass easily, and it's long past time that it was brought up for a vote.
In part that is because, as a result of Trump's decision, an estimated 122 DREAMERS lose their status each day; more than 12,000 have so far. Technically, the Department of Homeland Security could start deporting these individuals at any point, though Trump has said they will be a low priority until the March 5th deadline.
That's why Congress must vote on the DREAM Act immediately. The act isn't amnesty; it's common sense. DREAMERS aren't criminals by any reasonable understanding, but rather are victims of a system that does not work as it should. That's why it's up to us in Congress to correct it by recognizing in law what people like Leezia Dhalla demonstrate in their actions everyday: DREAMERS are Americans.
In 1996, at just 6 years old, Dhalla moved to San Antonio, Texas with her parents; now, 21 years later, she is a college graduate, a small business owner and an undocumented immigrant who currently lives in fear of being deported.
But it wasn't supposed to be this way: Dhalla and her parents arrived here with visas, which was just the first step in a two-decade long process. She attended elementary, middle and high school in San Antonio, Texas, was a Girl Scout, spent her summers playing league basketball, and held down a job at the local supermarket. But, despite feeling that she was always an American, Dhalla was told that she was not, because a lawyer filed their paperwork late and her family's sponsor sold his business.
But then President Obama created the DACA program, which changed everything for Dhalla and nearly 800,000 young people like her: she was able to obtain a work permit, which enabled her to buy a home, pay off her student loans and start a small business. The money she spends goes directly into her community and, instead of taking away jobs - as misinformed critics of immigration reform incorrectly claim - her business employs people.
The DACA program isn't about letting in anybody new or rewarding criminal behavior; it's about recognizing what it is that makes somebody American.
So it was with Dhalla and thousands of other DREAMERS like her in mind that I marched alongside nearly 200 people last week, and it was with them in mind that I ignored the first, second and third warnings from Capitol police to move or be arrested.
Getting arrested was my choice, but I made it in support of those who didn't have a choice about coming here and may not have a choice about leaving their homes:. These undocumented youth were brought here by their parents at a young age, and now face a permanent banishment from the places they've grown up and built their lives.
DREAMERS do not deserve the cruel uncertainty created by President Trump's attack on DACA. But Congress does have an opportunity to do the right thing: Republican leaders have declared the budget and their tax plan "must pass" bills before we adjourn in December. The DREAM Act can and must be included in these priorities
If Republican leaders refuse, people like Dhalla can soon be deported to a country they do not know and where they might not even speak the language, torn away from their family, friends, jobs, and the communities they serve. That isn't something we should leave on their plates for Christmas. Congress must pass the DREAM Act now.