While the nation’s focus is rightfully on the COVID-19 crisis, another crisis is looming for a large group of young people. Dreamers are living a nightmare as they wait for the federal government to act on their status.
There is no national consensus on immigration, with passionate viewpoints on both sides. But most Americans sympathize with the plight of Dreamers, who were brought into this country as young children. No matter where you stand politically, most of us agree that Dreamers are standing on shaky ground as the US Supreme Court decides if they can stay in the only country they have ever known.
As an immigration lawyer, I have represented thousands committed to the pursuit of the American Dream. Many of them are Dreamers with DACA status, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
It has been a lifeline for many young immigrants, but that lifeline may go away depending on what happens in the U.S. Supreme Court, in the halls of Congress, and in the Oval Office.
In 2012, the Obama Administration granted temporary relief from deportation and work authorization documents to foreign nationals inside the United States who had been brought here as children through no fault of their own. DACA status allows them to work, go to school, and live the American dream.
It is estimated that more than 825,000 have applied for DACA since its inception in 2012. I was able to witness firsthand how the lives of these young people were being changed for the better.
In 2017, the Department of Justice under President Donald Trump announced an end to the DACA program, putting Dreamers at risk of deportation. Fortunately, through court challenges, DACA recipients are still able to renew their status every two years. This all could end when the Supreme Court issues its decision in the coming weeks.
The Supreme Court could delay this decision. The court has already delayed oral arguments until the fall term of this year in response to COVID-19 crisis. Why not take this same approach to the decision regarding the fate of Dreamers? Especially when considering that some 30,000 Dreamers are health care workers on the front line in our nation’s defense against the spread of this pandemic.
If the Supreme Court does strike DACA down, the onus would immediately shift to Congress to pass a bipartisan bill to protect the Dreamers. While the term “bipartisan” has become almost a laughable concept in today’s politics, countless polls show bipartisan support for Dreamers. Politicians who ignore their plight do so at their own risk come Election Day.
Finally, the Trump Administration could reverse course and pass its own version of DACA. The same executive power that this administration has invoked to pass travel bans and curtail legal immigration could be repurposed to protect Dreamers. Trump may have created the current DACA crisis, but he has it within his power to solve the crisis and score some points with moderates.
Ultimately, our nation benefits from Dreamers and will suffer if they are thrust out of the country. Whether it be the Supreme Court, the Congress, or the president, there is a path forward for protecting Dreamers and in doing so, we as a nation have the opportunity to show that in America in 2020, empathy and common sense can still overpower loud voices and rash decisions.
— Darius Amiri is chairman of the Rose Law Group’s Immigration Department.