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Why It’s Urgent That Congress Act This Year on the Dream Act

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November 14, 2017

The case of 10-year-old Rosa Maria Hernandez is cruel and shocking, even for a Trump administration that has made the indiscriminate targeting of immigrants a top priority.

Americans were rightfully outraged that a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, who has lived in Texas since she was three months old, was separated from her family after undergoing gallbladder surgery at a Corpus Christi hospital. A phalanx of Customs and Border Protection agents accompanied Rosa Maria’s ambulance from a CBP checkpoint to the hospital, waited outside her room while she recovered from surgery, and then took her away from her family and put her into a detention facility in San Antonio.

While Rosa Maria has finally been reunited with her family, the government should now ensure that no deportation proceedings are filed against Rosa Maria or other young immigrants like her. And all Americans and members of Congress disturbed by the injustice on display in Rosa Maria’s case should intensify efforts to pass the bipartisan Dream Act as soon as possible. The Dream Act would protect not just the 800,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients — but an entire generation of young immigrants who grew up in the U.S. like Rosa Maria. DACA recipients and potential Dream Act beneficiaries are not safe unless Congress steps up and acts now.

The urgency to resolve young immigrants’ status becomes clearer and more pressing every day. Despite President Trump’s false reassurances that Dreamers would have “nothing to worry about,” we are already seeing DACA recipients and other young immigrants facing renewed attacks.

The Trump administration was denying DACA renewal applications even before it announced the end of the program. Take the case of Jessica Colotl, a 28-year-old from Atlanta who has lived in the U.S. since age 11 and graduated with academic distinction from high school and college in Georgia. Twice this year, a federal judge has stepped in to restore Jessica’s wrongfully denied DACA status, which the Trump Administration took away arbitrarily even though the Department of Homeland Security had granted her DACA twice previously and her circumstances remained unchanged.

Or take the case of Jesús Arreola, a 23-year-old resident of the Los Angeles area, who has lived in the U.S. since age one. Jesús worked at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, was an Uber and Lyft driver, and is the primary caregiver for his parents and siblings. DHS granted him DACA status in 2012, 2014, and again in 2016. Despite his valid DACA status, federal immigration authorities arrested him in February while he was driving a customer and falsely accused him of human smuggling. Even though an immigration judge promptly rejected the government’s bogus claims, and Jesús was never charged with any crime, DHS revoked his DACA. He is far from the only case of a wrongful DACA revocation, a practice the ACLU is challenging in a class action lawsuit.

Trump also is using administrative measures to hurt thousands of young people. Because of the new DACA reapplication deadline created by the administration, 22,000 DACA recipients will be at risk of deportation. The government did not provide these Dreamers with an official notice of the new and arbitrary Oct. 5, 2017, deadline, and thousands missed it as a result. Unless Congress does its job and passes legislation, 1,400 Dreamers per business day will start to lose their permits to legally live and work at home and become at risk of deportation.

Keep in mind, President Trump’s decision to end DACA was the outcome of a plot created by anti-immigrant leaders, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, White House Adviser Stephen Miller, and state attorneys general like Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. There should be no confusing what these hardliners’ ultimate goals are. They want to “prepare for and arrange [DACA recipients’] departure from the United States” and enact policies that terrorize their friends and families.

Congress should not give into the un-American agenda of deporting Dreamers and should instead take immediate action to protect them, along with their friends and families. Congress should attach these protections to must-pass legislation before the holidays, as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and others have been calling for. And any efforts to pass a fix for Dreamers should not be paired with hardline immigration provisions like increased detention and deportation efforts, more CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and the further militarization of border communities.

It’s time that responsible members of Congress from both parties took action on behalf of these young immigrants. No young immigrant Dreamer should have to spend the holidays wondering if they will have to leave the country they call home.

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