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Jimmy Panetta: Why we must fight for Dreamers

October 14, 2017
In The News

On Sept. 5, the Trump Administration announced that it was rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, originally implemented by the Obama Administration five years ago.

The DACA policy has allowed upwards of 800,000 Dreamers to stay and work legally in the United States without the fear of being deported. These are individuals who came to the United States as infants and children – through no fault of their own – and have largely known no other home except our great nation. Since the administration is pulling the rug out from underneath these young people, Congress now must act and pass a permanent legislative solution.

Dreamers are our neighbors, students, employees, and friends. One in four DACA recipients live in California, and an estimated 20,000 Dreamers currently live in the communities that make up California’s 20th Congressional District, which I proudly represent.

Recently, I met with dozens of the nearly 900 Dreamers who attend Hartnell College, which enrolls the most DACA recipients of any college on the Central Coast. Those young men and women study hard, are employed at local businesses, contribute to the economy, provide for themselves and their families, and, most importantly, strive to give back to the communities and country that gave them so much opportunity.

Unfortunately, the President and his administration repeatedly demonstrate that they do not understand the inherent value that immigrants bring to our country. Just last Sunday, the administration unveiled its proposed immigration principles, which include using Dreamers as bargaining chips to fulfill a campaign promise to build a wall along our southern border. Moreover, the administration seeks to establish an insensitive merit-based system to obtain green cards, mandate an impractical e-verify system for employers, and slam the door on children fleeing violence and criminal street gangs. In a letter to Congress, the President stated that his immigration policy priorities, “must be included as part of any legislation addressing” DACA.

I value our nation’s security, but the administration’s proposals are counterproductive to achieving the bipartisan support necessary to properly protect our borders and save Dreamers.

In order to provide protection and certainty to those young men and women, Congress should bring the bipartisan DREAM Act to the House floor for a vote. That bill, which I am a proud cosponsor of, would require Dreamers to go to college, serve in the military, or be employed for certain periods of time. After those common-sense metrics are met, the Dreamers are given the opportunity not only to stay in America, but to earn their American citizenship.

If this bill were to come to the floor of the House, I firmly believe that it would pass and be on its way to become a law. Unfortunately, that has yet to occur for this bill or any legislation dealing with the future of the Dreamers. Due to that inaction, I have supported efforts to force a vote on the Dream Act by signing a discharge petition in the House.

Concurrently, I am conducting meetings with both my Democratic and Republican colleagues to put forward a framework upon which we can agree to an earned pathway to citizenship for Dreamers as well as technological upgrades and improvements to the security of our border. As the President and Democratic leaders originally agreed, such a compromise will not include a costly and ineffective wall, but must include the opportunity for Dreamers to earn their American citizenship.

It is the shared responsibility of Democrats and Republicans to work together to advance laws that further the ideals of our republic. As a nation of immigrants, I firmly believe that it is the obligation of Congress to pass legislation to give Dreamers the opportunity to declare who they are: Americans. By living in our neighborhoods, succeeding in our schools, serving in our military, and working in our communities, Dreamers are Americans in every way but on paper. I am working hard to change that.

 

Congressman Jimmy Panetta represents California’s 20th District in the United States Congress.

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