EDITORIAL: Congress and the Dreamers

York Dispatch

Congress, nearly 800,000 balls are in your court.

Now that President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have pushed the fate of the Dreamers to you, it's up to you to make sure these children and young adults have a way to legally stay in the only country they have ever known.

On Tuesday, Sept. 5, Sessions announced that the Trump administration is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act.

DACA was started by President Barack Obama in 2012 as a way for immigrants who were brought into the U.S. illegally when they were children, or whose families overstayed their visas to remain in the country they grew up in, get driver's licenses, go to college, have health care and generally become productive members of society.

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Dreamers have to prove that they came to the U.S. before they turned 16, and they have to give the government other information as well. They also have to be in school or have a high school diploma or GED, and they can't have a serious criminal record.

DACA was necessary because Congress couldn't agree on a way to give the Dreamers, as these children have come to be known, a path to citizenship. Was it “an unconstitutional exercise of authority," as Sessions said on Tuesday? Maybe. But when Congress doesn't do its job, the president has the obligation to step in.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes a statement at the Justice Department in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, on President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, which has provided nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the United States. Sessions announced the termination of the program. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Dreamers have to renew their permits to stay in the country every two years, and the administration says it will stop renewing those permits on Oct. 5 for those whose permits expire by March 5, 2018. No new applications will be accepted.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, said the ending of DACA will restore the balance of power between the administration and Congress on immigration policy.

"Congress has abdicated its responsibility on this issue for far too long," Perry said.

He's right. Congress should have dealt with this issue years ago, before DACA was put into place. But now Congress has to act, and quickly, to avoid ruining hundreds of thousands of lives.

And we're not just talking about the lives of the Dreamers themselves. If it's not enough to do the right thing by them just because it's the right, moral thing to do, look at the economy. 

Deporting the Dreamers would have direct costs of about $60 billion to the federal government, according to the CATO Institute. The overall cost to the economy would be about $280 billion over the next decade, the institute said. 

Protesters hold up signs during a rally supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, outside the White House on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. Thousands are expected to gather for rallies on Tuesday, when President Donald Trump is slated to announce the program's future. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., is urging Congress to immediately move to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The bill would grant permanent legal status to the Dreamers and others who arrived in the country as minors and meet other criteria.

"(Dreamers) have been law-abiding residents who have learned English, paid taxes and secured jobs that allow them to support themselves and their families," Casey said in a statement. "Our government promised them that they would be protected if they came forward, and now President Trump is breaking that promise."

Creating a legal path toward permanent residency and citizenship for these young adults is the right thing to do. They had no say in where they were raised, and they have done what they needed to do to make their lives and the lives of those around them better. 

To take away their status by doing away with DACA and not replacing it is cruel even by the standards of this administration. 

It's time for our lawmakers to step up and protect these vulnerable members of our community from an administration that doesn't care how many lives it steps on to fulfill a misguided agenda.