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Business Casual: Dream a Little Dream

So let me be sure I have this right: Just weeks after President Donald Trump announces his intention to toughen immigration laws to favor those with English proficiency and good job prospects, he rescinds DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that offered protection, including renewable work permits, for young people brought illegally to America as children prior to 2007. These so-called “dreamers,” some 800,000 of them, are now pursuing an education, gainfully employed or, in some cases, serving in the military.

Don’t they fit the description of the kind of immigrant the president finds acceptable? And they are already here.

Most of these young people, who did not choose to come here, have little or no memory of their home country; some may not have known until recently they weren’t born here. They grew up as Americans – immersed in their community, speaking English, attending school, playing sports, listening to the same music their American-born contemporaries like, sharing the same experiences their friends and neighbors do.

President Barack Obama created DACA via executive order in 2012, after Congress failed to pass The DREAM Act, which would have provided legislative protection to the childhood arrivals. They didn’t get the law, just the “dreamer” name.

These particular immigrants are threatening to some people, most of whom seem to fear the dreamers are “taking” something they are not entitled to by virtue of birthplace, whether that is a job, a Harvard admission, a gurney in the ER or a place in the Starbucks line.

Those fears are hard to dislodge; they have become the basis of some people’s conviction that anything and everything that is wrong with their lives would be improved if massive numbers of immigrants were deported, including the dreamers.

Of course, our immigration laws need reforming; that can has been kicked down the road for a long time. There are legitimate concerns about making it easy for those who wish to do us harm or bring criminal behavior with them to our country. You won’t hear me advocating for them. But the dreamers? Surely they have paid their dues.

Whether or not Congress is able to fashion any legislative solution during the six-month enforcement delay President Trump agreed to is uncertain. DACA program participants, whose identities are well known, are visible and convenient targets.

It would be nice to think that some sort of bipartisan agreement could be reached that would recognize the special circumstances surrounding the dreamers and allow them to stay in the country they consider home. But it’s hard to have much confidence that the deep divisions within Congress can be overcome.

Yet outside the Capitol there is increasing support for the dreamers. An NBC News/Survey Monkey poll found close to two-thirds of Americans favor the young immigrants; U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) puts the figure at 76 percent.

And the stakes are getting higher. These dreamers are savvy, educated and organized. Many of them and their supporters are no longer simply seeking deferrals and the right to temporary work permits; they want a path to citizenship. They have been paying taxes, contributing to the economy and leading productive lives, and they believe they have earned the right to become citizens.

They have heard too many suggestions that rights-seekers should exercise patience; their resolve has been strengthened, and they are upping the ante. Neither they nor their advocates are likely to be deterred.

I do understand the notion of playing by the rules and waiting one’s turn; but the 800,000 young people in question were not the rule-breakers or the line-jumpers – their families made the decision for them.

Even in more temperate times, solving the political part of this dilemma would be challenging, and these are hardly temperate times.

But apart from the politics of the issue, there is one overriding fact that colors my own feelings about allowing the dreamers to stay.

If I were raising a young child in a place of limited opportunity or outright danger, and I saw a chance to take my child to another place with better prospects for a better life – even if getting to that place involved some risk and remaining there might put me at odds with the law – would I do it? You bet I would.

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