DREAMing Beyond DACA

On the day after Labor Day, when we celebrate those who work hard to build our country, Donald Trump has attacked the definition of who can work to build it, by ending Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA). America has been built by immigrants who have come here with and without documentation. From our first settlers to migrant workers, America has been defined by those who travelled to its soils to build a new life.

America has also been built on the exploitation of migrants and native peoples. As we confront this reality as a nation, piecemeal legislation is passed to address each group separately, and inadequately. We place bandaids on the problem rather than passing comprehensive programs to empower the American worker while reforming guest worker visa and immigration policies.

These programs divide us as a nation. They “de-unionize” the American workforce and the fabric of our culture. Trump and his colleagues in Congress believe DACA can be rescinded because it only affects a small minority of individuals. Political acts of this nature are intended to create and marginalize minorities; they are intentionally dividing working people for exploitation. They are wrong though that they should isolate Dreamers because such a Draconian measure will hurt us as a nation. We must rebell against the false neoconservative assumption that we the majority will not care about programs that do not affect us personally. In fact, nearly eighty-percent of American voters support DACA and a legal path to citizenship for this population of immigrants. We must stand together in a unified cause for our humanity.

Undocumented immigrants will continue to face assaults on their ability to exist peacefully until we pass comprehensive immigration reform. The repeal of DACA is particularly harsh, as it was one of the few immigration programs that helped bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. Trump’s repeal will only return these individuals, innocents who were brought here as children, to once again live a shadow life as displaced persons with no country of their own. DACA allowed them to live here without fear and contribute to our society with legal work permits.

We need to be helping law-abiding undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, not forcing them back into the shadows. We must shift our conversation away from Sanctuary Cities. What is the logical conclusion of this reform mentality, a Sanctuary Country? These people do not most need sanctuary, they need documentation. Sanctuary would just be another bandaid used to divide the workforce against itself. Sanctuary expands shadows and while those shadows are necessary until reform is passed, they are not a long term solution. Sanctuary as an end goal is part of a neoliberal agenda to continue the exploitation of undocumented immigrants. It’s a bandaid to a problem that requires wholesale work visa expansion.

All of the American workforce needs to band together to fight exploitation. We need to fight for work permits, to allow people to come out of the shadows. Only then can we humanely assess the reality of who is here, who is doing which job, and how much they are being paid for it. Only in giving work visas to those currently working here and abiding by our laws can we assess the economic and human impact of changes to immigration and citizenship policy. For people with no other home, like Dreamers, work permits are not enough. We need to give them concrete paths to citizenship.

In 2001 Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the DREAM Act, which would legislatively create and codify the legal path to citizenship for these individuals. It was the right move then and it makes even more sense now. The Bipartisan DREAM Act of 2017 was introduced this past July by Senators Graham (R-SC), Flake (R-AZ, Durbin (D-IL) and Schumer (D-NY). The United States Congress, in the face of such vile bigotry on the part of President Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, should immediately display bipartisan decency and leadership and pass the DREAM Act of 2017. In doing so they will Constitutionalize a program that displays the finest essence of American inclusion and humanity. It will also put an end to the dehumanizing behavior of those who want to play political games by using the lives of decent, law abiding and hard working people as pawns in their attempts to feed the xenophobic passions of their base.

Congress now has six months to fix this situation and clean up Trump’s mess. I hope Rep. Pat Meehan, who knows our district (PA-07) has many Dreamers, can stand up to party leadership to do the right thing and help pass the DREAM Act of 2017. You should not need to be wealthy or exceptional to become exceptional in America. The Meehans and Sheehans came here with dreams and built American families. My husband came here and is continuing to build my American family still. We are all dreamers.

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