Finish the Job: Pass the DREAM Act Now
By Dr. Mildred García
The Supreme Court struck a victory for the more than 700,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
Thanks to DACA, some but not all “Dreamers” — individuals brought to the United States by their parents as children — have gained temporary work benefits and protection from deportation.
In a historic ruling, the majority of the justices determined that the administration could not immediately move forward with its plans to end provisions protecting these young immigrants. For now, their ability to live, work and study continues in what is, for most of them, the only homeland they have ever known.
But this decision did not resolve the larger question of ensuring a path to full legal status for all Dreamers. The Supreme Court’s ruling was grounded primarily in the methods that the administration was utilizing to end the program. Congress must now act swiftly for full passage of the Dream Act and finally resolve this long-unfinished business — 19 years in the making.
Despite occasional statements from President Trump expressing a desire to end this prolonged nightmare and offer legal status, the administration has consistently taken the opposite approach, undermining multiple attempts by Congress to address the issue through the legislative process — such as the American Dream and Promise Act passed by the House of Representatives in 2019 — while treating the plight of DACA recipients and Dreamers as a political wedge issue. For these young people, this is not about politics — it’s about ensuring the opportunity to pursue their dreams and aspirations.
The time for debate and delaying action has long passed. A strong national and bipartisan consensus has emerged for addressing the future of these Americans, except in legal status, once and for all. Congress and the administration have an obligation to close this chapter with a simple fix — allowing Dreamers to stay in the United States if they had arrived as a child, completed school or served in the military, and have not committed a serious crime.
The Dream Act will go a long way toward addressing one of the clearest moral failures of recent decades and demonstrating that our leaders can still work together on areas of broad public consensus.
I see the contributions of these young people each day from my vantage point leading the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). These students reflect the incredible breadth of diversity across our nation, including adult learners; students of color; military veterans; first-generation students; low-income students; and yes, immigrants — including many who hold DACA status.
In fact, nearly 97% of DACA recipients are in school or employed. Each day these students contribute so much to the fabric of our communities across the nation, including campuses and academic institutions like AASCU’s members.
For example, among these Dreamers, our students have become lawyers, medical doctors, health professionals, journalists, and business entrepreneurs and are represented in all professions. Many Dreamers, who are students or now teachers/professors themselves, are vital members of the academic community, making invaluable contributions each day to the critical work of learning, inquiry and research across the United States.
This diverse and vibrant student population is a fitting testament to the richness of our nation. They have violated no laws themselves; in fact, the vast majority have conducted themselves as exemplary citizens. This is the only home that most have ever known, and they love it as deeply and passionately as any of its citizens.
Our success as a nation is predicated on the strength of our diversity — and the public agrees, as we see in the broad support for a legislative fix. In a time of record-low confidence in elected leaders, taking a final vote on the Dream Act should be a no-brainer.
We can choose a better path for our future. Rather than to continue to kick the can down the road to future elected officials and asking these young people to live in fear and uncertainty, Congress and our current political leaders can and must act bravely, decisively and with conviction. We have a moral obligation to help Dreamers fully pursue the American Dream. This moral imperative reflects our national self-interest: These are individuals who love this country and are hungry to fully, safely and legally continue to contribute to our nation’s well-being and economic development. In a time when we face so many complex challenges, let’s keep this creativity, potential and idealism here at home. Let’s pass the Dream Act NOW.
Mildred García, Ed.D., is president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, a Washington-based higher education association of nearly 400 public colleges, universities and systems.