The United States has been the destination for immigrant families like ours before this nation was even founded. Whether you were born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to parents who migrated from India, or you moved to the U.S. as a child from Panama and grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, that shared pursuit of opportunity led millions of immigrants to America’s shores. Our country has never been homogenous, but migration has been a constant in our history and has made this country what it is today.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is one of the most significant wins of the immigrant rights movement in the past decade and the fight was led by undocumented young people. The program offered hope for those who were brought to this country when they were young. Now their lives and opportunity to live without fear of deportation from the country they call home is in jeopardy.
The roughly 800,000 undocumented young people who grew up in America are vulnerable to unjust deportations now that President Trump has repealed DACA– a program that offered many a promise for the future and path to economic stability. Like generations of immigrants who came before us, undocumented young people are vibrant, integral members of our society who make incredible contributions to all of our communities every single day. They serve in our military, run small businesses, teach in our schools and care for the elderly.
If Congress does not pass a clean Dream Act, families will be torn apart indefinitely, our economy will suffer, and people will be sent deeper into the shadows, making our communities less safe. The only way to stop this is for Congress to act immediately.
We must come together to defend undocumented young people and demand that members of Congress do the right thing.
This isn’t just another political tug-of-war. It’s one of the most important civil rights issues of our time. Congress must pass a clean, bipartisan Dream Act as a matter of basic decency, justice, and fairness. Undocumented people are a part of the economic, cultural and historical fabric of this country and they deserve to be protected. We must pass the Dream Act to protect undocumented young people and they should not be held hostage to divisive amendments that would endanger the rest of our immigrant community.
This isn’t just another political tug-of-war. It’s one of the most important civil rights issues of our time.
Undocumented young people come from across the world. There are over 575,000 undocumented Black immigrants living in the U.S. and at least 16,000 of them are DACA recipients. Black immigrants face additional barriers, in the immigration system, such as being more likely to be criminalized and deported than other groups. This is why it’s so crucial to make sure we do not allow any enforcement provisions or criminalization to be added to the Dream Act.
President Trump created this crisis, throwing the lives of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants and their families into limbo.
While it was encouraging to see bipartisan support for protecting undocumented young people shortly after Trump’s heartless repeal of DACA, Congress has failed to act with the urgency needed for this crisis. Regardless of any timeline the President is proposing, Congress must get to work immediately to pass a clean Dream Act. Hundreds of thousands of young lives are on the line. It is now up to Congress to pass a permanent solution to protect our immigrant families and to make America fairer and more just.
By Vanita Gupta and Jonathan Jayes-Green
Vanita Gupta is the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Jonathan Jayes-Green is a DACA recipient, and co-creator and national coordinator of the UndocuBlack Network.