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Chris Honoré: ‘Dreamers’ — six months and counting

In thinking about the schism that currently exists in our nation between Republicans and Democrats, I am aware that for many it is not simply a matter of point of view, but one of ideology, meaning a way of framing the role government plays in our lives.

I acknowledge that the space between conservatives and progressives can seem wide and often insurmountable. In truth I often find myself concluding that Republicans can seem not just puzzling but downright mean-spirited. But then I believe our social contract with one another is not Darwinian; instead I remain convinced that we must care for one another, especially the most fragile and most vulnerable. It’s who we are.

Consider the recent revocation of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on behalf of the Trump administration.

DACA was put in place by the Obama administration in June of 2014. It allowed those who were brought here as children illegally to receive a renewable two-year deferred-action from deportation and to be eligible for work permits.

There are today some 800,000 “Dreamers” (a term taken from the “Dream Act” which was proposed by Obama and rejected by Congress). At Obama’s urging, they stepped out of the shadows and passed stringent background checks confirming they had no criminal records. For them it was an act of faith.

Meanwhile, on the 2015-16 campaign trail, candidate Trump repeatedly pledged to rescind DACA, insisting in interviews that the Dreamers were here illegally and must return to their country of origin, a country as foreign to them as it would be to any native-born American.

The U.S. was the only country they knew, and as DACAs they found jobs, enrolled in schools, paid into Social Security. They were in every way Americans and believed that by registering as Dreamers they would find before them a path to citizenship.

What they did not anticipate was that Trump, whose anti-immigration opinions were well known, would be elected, thus jeopardizing their aspirations.

After allowing the DACAs to live for months with uncertainty, Trump finally sent Jeff Sessions to the microphone in September of this year to announce the rescission of the DACA policy accompanied by a hiatus of six months wherein Congress was told to craft legislation regarding DACA. Should Congress fail to make DACA permanent, all of the 800,000 Dreamers would be eligible for deportation.

What was astonishing and reprehensible were the reasons Sessions used to justify the craven Trump decision. First the A.G. repeatedly referred to DACAs as mostly-adult illegal aliens. He went on to claim that they “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegals.” The fact is that deporting the Dreamers will have a deleterious effect on the U.S. economy; most economists view their contribution to the economy as a boon.

Sessions also claimed that enforcing the immigration law “saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers and prevents human suffering. Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism.” There is no evidence that Dreamers are more likely to commit crimes than any other person in the U.S. To mention terrorism is disgraceful.

Sessions went on to insist that since DACA was put in place there has been a surge of children illegally entering the U.S. Actually, the increase in minors arriving without documents is due to the increase in violent crime in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

What is deplorable is the absence of truth and compassion in Session’s reasoning. If there were candidates for citizenship it is the Dreamers. And yet the Trump administration stated, “The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States.”

Perhaps it sounds cynical, but given the views regarding immigration, not only in the White House but inthe Republican-controlled Congress, the odds that in six months the Dreamers will be offered a path to citizenship are slim to none. This is not who we are. Yet this is who we are now.

— Chris Honoré of Ashland is a Daily Tidings columnist.