Francisco Ramirez: We can’t wait for the DREAM Act any longer
People who call themselves Dreamers, protest in front of the Senate side of the US Capitol to urge Congress in passing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on December 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images
June is Immigrant Heritage Month in the United States. It gives us the opportunity to reflect on our history as a nation founded upon immigration and appreciate how immigrants enrich the state of Michigan and the rest of the country.
This year’s Immigrant Heritage Month includes an important anniversary that reminds us of the significant overhauls that our immigration system needs, particularly when it comes to Dreamers like me. Dreamers are undocumented young adults who immigrated to the U.S. as children. On June 15, 2012, we became eligible for U.S. residency permits through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has allowed me and 700,000 other Dreamers to live and work for two years at a time in the country we already call home.
DACA is at best a Band-aid solution for Dreamers. First, while I am fortunate to have DACA status, less than half of Dreamers are eligible for the program.
Second, DACA only provides two years of stability at a time; as we must renew our permits every other year. Finally, DACA is vulnerable to termination and constant lawsuits. Yes, the Supreme Court ruled last year that former President Trump could not terminate DACA as he wanted to in 2017, but new challenges to the program are always making their way through the courts. For example, a federal judge in Texas will rule on the future of DACA any day now. I live every day in limbo, wondering if I will soon be separated from my family and community, even though I consider myself as American as can be.
I immigrated to the United States from Mexico at the age of three and am a proud Michiganian. Like every other Dreamer, I grew up in the United States, attended school here, and want nothing more than to continue building my life here.
Dreamers enrich our communities by creating jobs for Michigan workers, serving as essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic, and paying taxes, yet we are unable to plan our lives with certainty — simply because we weren’t born in the country we know as home. If DACA were to be terminated, I could be deported to an unfamiliar country that I do not remember and where I do not know anyone.
Dreamers need a permanent legislative solution that offers the security that DACA cannot. Right now, the Senate is considering a bill that could provide Dreamers with a long-overdue pathway to citizenship: the bipartisan DREAM Act. This is a rare opportunity to pass legislation that is both sound policy and good politics.
It is overwhelmingly popular across party lines; new polling demonstrates that 75%t of American voters think Dreamers should be able to keep working and attending school in the U.S. while they wait for U.S. citizenship. In Michigan alone, nearly half of Republican voters, and two-thirds of voters overall, agree that creating a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers is a no-brainer. Even in our hyper-partisan political climate, the DREAM Act doesn’t tear voters apart — it unites them.
Two million Dreamers — and their families — have waited decades for a path to citizenship in the country where we have built lives and families. Until we accomplish meaningful immigration reform, our futures remain uncertain.
Fortunately, Congress has the ability to give us the stability we deserve. I am grateful for the leadership of U.S. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing), who are sympathetic to our cause and continue to fight for a fair immigration system that welcomes Dreamers.
We would be foolish to let this opportunity to pass the DREAM Act slip away. It’s bipartisan, commonsense legislation that will protect Dreamers, boost the economy, and enrich communities across Michigan and the entire United States.
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