On election night I sat with several bright, energetic and hardworking young immigrants, each with boundless promise, who broke down and sobbed uncontrollably. It was heartbreaking. Since the election our phones have been ringing off the hook with calls from immigrant youth terrified that they’re about to be deported. Countless kids all across America have lost hope that their dreams of living freely and openly in the only country they call home will ever come true.
Instead, they have been painfully reminded of what their life in America was like before President Obama implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012: fearing a police knock on the door, a rushed good-bye to family and friends….weeks or months in detention…then abruptly being shipped away to a country as foreign as Mars.
Some 65,000 students graduate high school each year and face bleak prospects, regardless of their talent and potential to significantly contribute to the country they love and call home. Brought to America as children, often as infants, by parents who risked everything to provide their kids safety and a better future, they are as American as any other kids. Every close friend, every tear, every pledge of allegiance has been in the United States. While DACA has been a lifeline for upwards of 800,000 DREAMer applicants, providing them temporary relief from deportation and an opportunity to pursue their dreams, it is not a path to permanent legal status. Indeed, it can be revoked at any time.
Our President-elect has promised to end DACA on his first day in office, and can do so with the stroke of a pen on January 21st. Rounding DREAMers up wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Every DACA applicant had to provide Immigration officials with their contact information. Recently, Trump has appeared to backtrack, telling reporters they’re “going to work something out” with DREAMers. However, he has not yet reneged on his promise to quickly revoke all of Obama’s executive orders, including DACA.
Meanwhile, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) are garnering support for the BRIDGE Act, which would preserve key elements of DACA. More than 500 college and university presidents have also urged our country’s leaders to continue and expand DACA, as have several big-city mayors.
While this is welcome news, without the passage of legislation such as the failed “DREAM Act,” these kids will remain in legal limbo, unable to live “normal” lives or fully shine. The initial “DREAM Act” bill was introduced in 2001, and re-introduced over the years.
In January 2010, four of our clients walked 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington DC to promote the DREAM Act and the need for immigration reform. These four “Dream walkers,” as they were called, reflected the aspirations of other immigrant youth who live in two worlds. They did not choose to come here as first-generation immigrants, but most attended U.S. primary and secondary schools and share the same interests and dreams as their US-born classmates. The “Trail of Dreams” gave birth to a nationwide coalition of DREAMers who “came out” as undocumented, and it created a national campaign calling for reform.
Sadly, the 2010 DREAM Act legislation fell just five votes short of passage. If it had succeeded, immigrant youth would now have a reasonable path to citizenship and the ability to maximize their potential. The 2013 bipartisan Senate Immigration Reform bill included the DREAM Act, but never made it to the House floor despite considerable support.
Passage of a DREAM bill is not only morally right, it is just plain smart. It would stop the immense brain drain that occurs when ambitious young people are deported or blocked from achieving their full potential. Were their talents unleashed, these new Americans would earn, spend and invest heavily in the U.S. economy.
Endowed with resilience and a strong work ethic, DREAMers already contribute to our economy and our tax base, balancing our aging population and growing our nation’s GDP. A recent study by the Center for American Progress found that ending DACA would reduce the U.S. GDP by at least $433.4 billion over 10 years. In 2010 the Congressional Budget Office estimated that passing a DREAM Act would over a decade reduce the federal deficit by $1.4 billion, and would increase government revenues by $2.3 billion.
In the aftermath of the November election, when the color of one’s skin or a foreign accent can too easily subject immigrants to abuse and discrimination, the fight for fair, just immigration reform is more critical than ever. We can and should dare to dream that America can achieve meaningful and lasting comprehensive immigration reform that benefits ALL of America. Congress and the new administration need to work on passing the DREAM Act, ideally as part of a comprehensive Immigration Reform package.
It’s time to stop the colossal waste of talent that our country can’t afford by enacting legislation that offers immigrant youth a path to permanent legal status and higher education. Our hope is that our President-elect will not only preserve and extend DACA, but will work closely with both political parties to ensure that these deserving kids can finally pursue their dreams. Hundreds of thousands of DREAMers and millions of U.S. citizens are hoping and praying that he will.
We need to consider where we’re allocating money, time and energy
AI Justice was listed as one of a handful of organizations that "are crucial in the fight for the rights of those most likely to be under attack when President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence take office in January."
La Universidad Saint Thomas le dio media beca y sus padres se esforzaron para pagar la otra mitad de los estudios. Pero Pendola no podía trabajar. Al menos no legalmente. Llegó a Estados Unidos en el 2001, a los 10 años de edad, junto a sus padres, cuando los turistas argentinos no necesitaban visa para entrar. La familia se quedó en el país indocumentada.
When Fort Lauderdale high school senior Minaldy Cadet got his acceptance letter from Boston College in March, he thought the life he had dreamed of was finally within reach.
“It was incredible. One of the best feelings ever,” Cadet recalled. “As soon as I saw their email, as soon as I opened it up and read the congratulations, I just instantly started running around my house saying, ‘Yah! I got accepted!’”
But the family soon discovered that an immigration paperwork mistake 17 years ago could derail Cadet’s dreams and his family’s future.
Cheryl Little on Trump's recent immigration speech.
Last month, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency quietly deported dozens of African immigrants who were trying to seek asylum in the United States.
Sixty-three men who were unable to secure visas to stay in the country legally on humanitarian relief claims, according to a source within ICE who spoke to ThinkProgress on condition of anonymity. Activists who spoke with deported individuals said they were sent back to Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal.
Immigration activists believe that number may be closer to 90. They also say many of these men shouldn’t have been targeted by ICE in the first place because they had already passed theircredible fear interviews — a preliminary step in the asylum process to determine whether immigrants would be placed in grave danger if they’re returned to their home countries.
Some lawyers say that black immigrants have the odds stacked against them in the immigration court system. ICE generally requires immigrants to have a sponsor who’s a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. The agency also has stringent requirements for identity documents, which is problematic for immigrants from countries like Somalia where the government didn’t always have the ability to issue those documents, according to Jessica Shulruff Schneider, a supervising attorney at the Americans for Immigrant Justice.
“Many of the individuals that are Africans don’t have close family members or friends to assist them from the outside,” said Shulruff Schneider. “It makes it virtually impossible to fight your case.”