The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board
Immigration reform was a huge selling point for President Donald Trump’s winning bid for the White House. Millions rallied behind his call to tighten borders and begin the deportation of undocumented immigrants. An air of uncertainty has hung thick over the nation since the administration took charge in February and many have waited with bated breath for their fate to be handed down.
But one group of undocumented immigrants has lived with this uncertainty for most of their lives: Dreamers.
These are individuals who were brought to the United States as children and gained the right to stay in the country through a rigorous, restrictive and expensive program introduced by the Barack Obama Administration known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in 2012. This program mirrored the requirements and benefits of the DREAM Act, official legislation which Congress has debated over and tinkered with several times since its conception in 2001.
A common misconception is the DACA program is immediately being terminated and deportation is on the horizon for all affected individuals. In actuality, President Trump is giving Congress an ultimatum: either codify DACA into law or put those involved at risk of losing their livelihoods and the only home they’ve ever know.
Had the DREAM Act been instated as law one of the several times it was introduced, Dreamers wouldn’t be at the mercy of a historically ineffective Congress.
There can be no doubt Dreamers are in this position through no fault of their own; now they are in danger of being exiled to countries they don’t know, by people who have very little compassion for the exhausting process it takes to stay in the country.
And the myths surrounding Dreamers are too many to count, but the most common are they are criminals, welfare hogs and taking education funds away from actual citizens. However, these are all untrue; if you are part of the DACA program, you must not have a criminal record, cannot utilize welfare and receive no financial aid for your education.
The argument surrounding the legality of their being able to stay could go on for a lifetime. The requirements to stay are numerous. The hostility towards their very presence is unfathomable.
Yet, they can never become citizens.
The DACA is not a means to an end. Those that qualify must pay $495 every two years, submit a large amount of paperwork and can only leave the country for humanitarian, education or employment purposes (no vacations are permitted under this practice, called ‘Advance Parole,’ but documented health issues of a non-native relative are acknowledged on a case-by-case basis).
But citizenship is not an opportunity which they are afforded.
The DACA did not pave the way for these people to become documented citizens. And as an intensely debated workaround to the floundering DREAM Act, Obama’s program is just that: an easily replaceable program, not a law.
Now President Trump is laying the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants born in other countries at the feet of a government body which has proved over and over it is incapable of coming to an effective and humane consensus on many issues.
A humble suggestion would be to fix the underlying issue: the United States has a convoluted, lengthy and sometimes ineffective immigration system which eventually leads to citizenship.
If this process were streamlined with the well-being and security of all parties considered, making it easier for immigrants to become part of the great melting pot, then illegal immigration would slow and the pool of taxpayers would widen as all documented citizens pay taxes.
More jobs being filled, more money going towards social services and more diversity is something we can achieve. But we must hold our government responsible for bettering the lives of everyone in our country.
Dreamers will be under intense stress as their fate is debated for the next six months. But we can make the real dream, citizenship and safety for all those who earn it, a reality.