The population of undocumented immigrants in our nation was viewed as a group of people with entirely similar backgrounds and needs until then-President Barack Obama drew a circle around those children who were brought here unlawfully by their parents, or who lost their legal status through no fault of their own.

These children were named “Dreamers” in reference to a failed attempt to pass legislation to protect them: the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act. Obama stepped in, and by executive order, directed Immigration Customs and Enforcement to deprioritize the deportation of these children and ordered Citizenship and Immigration Services to issue work permits to those who applied and were qualified.

The program that the previous president created is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. What Obama could not do on his own was to confer the Dreamers a green card (permanent residency) or citizenship, as these benefits are governed by federal statute and require an act of Congress to alter. DACA was necessarily temporary in nature, and the next president would have to decide its fate.

President Trump chose, effectively, to end the program by not extending it. His actions, or lack thereof, created an ultimatum for Congress and the president to agree on a legislative solution by March. Unfortunately, the recent wrangling between President Trump and congressional leaders provides slim hope that a lasting solution for the Dreamers can be hammered out. In the rabid political environment we find ourselves in, it’s important to keep focused on who the Dreamers are and what their fate means for our nation.

The Dreamers are like no other group of immigrants who have awaited judgment from the U.S. government. They are the innocent. As a country, we have agreed that children cannot be held liable for their actions. This is codified into every aspect of the U.S. legal system, whether civil, criminal or administrative.

Dreamers are without refuge elsewhere. Having grown up in America, they often speak only English, and the nature of their immigration status means that they were not able to travel out of the U.S. until DACA was established. They have no other “home” to return to. In fact, if forced to leave, Dreamers will be cast out of the only home many of them have ever known.


These are good kids, as required by the terms of the program. Dreamers have passed security screenings. They have graduated from high school, served in the U.S. military. Many Dreamers hold jobs and pay taxes or have gone on to college. And they have achieved this while under the constant threat of having it ripped away, at any moment, by a forceful knock on the door.

We must decide, as a nation, how we will treat this group of Americans in all but name. Dreamers should not be used as a political football to be punted from one branch of the government to another. Their case should not be jumbled together and confused with border security or illegal employment. Theirs is a special case. A solution, based on American values, must be found.

The Dreamers must be extended a fair and expeditious path to citizenship so the stress and inequity of the status imposed upon them by circumstances out of their control can finally end. We should bring them fully into the American family. This is a core principle that our nation was founded on and by which most of us live our lives: to welcome good people who have no place to call home.

In the uneven history of our immigration laws, the Dreamers are one of the clearest cases of a group who deserves our protection. It is easy to lose sight of this point in the daily barrage of political bickering. History, however, will take note of what we did in this moment in time and how we treated this special group of immigrants.

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