Stop talk­ing about it; just pro­tect ‘dream­ers’

Pawtucket Times - - OPINION -

This ap­peared in Thurs­day's Wash­ing­ton Post:

Ev­ery­one knows that im­mi­gra­tion ig­nites more pas­sion, con­tention and ran­cor than al­most any na­tional is­sue. Or does it? In fact, at least when it comes to "dream­ers" — young un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who came to the United States as chil­dren, usu­ally with their par­ents — there is a near-na­tional con­sen­sus that they should be al­lowed to re­main in the coun­try, with­out the threat of de­por­ta­tion. Repub­li­cans who con­trol Congress should com­mit them­selves to achieve that rel­a­tively straight­for­ward goal with­out adding so much poi­sonous leg­isla­tive em­bel­lish­ment that Democrats balk.

In a new Wash­ing­ton Post-ABC News poll, 86 per­cent of Amer­i­cans said they fa­vor letting dream­ers stay here if they com­pleted high school or mil­i­tary ser­vice and have been con­victed of no se­ri­ous crime. More Amer­i­cans be­lieve in space aliens than fa­vor de­port­ing the dream­ers.

Given that rare de­gree of accord, it ought to be rel­a­tively sim­ple to de­vise a leg­isla­tive fix that re­places Pres­i­dent Barack Obama's ex­ec­u­tive or­der shield­ing im­mi­grants from de­por­ta­tion with a law that achieves that same ef­fect while al­low­ing dream­ers to live their lives trans­par­ently and un­en­cum­bered by bu­reau­cratic ha­rass­ment. Those who stay out of trou­ble, as the clear ma­jor­ity does, should be el­i­gi­ble for driver's li­censes and work per­mits; they should also be ex­pected to pay taxes.

It's fair to hag­gle over de­tails of the dream­ers' long-term le­gal sta­tus — whether and af­ter how many years they could qual­ify for ci­ti­zen­ship, and un­der what con­di­tions. That de­bate has quick­ened in re­cent days fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of a Repub­li­can bill in the Se­nate that lays out what amounts to a con­ser­va­tive ap­proach to set­tling the is­sue.

Un­der the mea­sure, known as the Suc­ceed Act and co-spon­sored by GOP Sens. Thom Til­lis, N.C., and James Lank­ford, Okla., dream­ers would be granted what amounts to a 15-year path­way to ci­ti­zen­ship, dur­ing which they would be re­quired to grad­u­ate from col­lege, serve in the mil­i­tary or main­tain steady em­ploy­ment. Af­ter 10 years, they'd be el­i­gi­ble for per­ma­nent le­gal res­i­dence, though it would come with a sig­nif­i­cant as­terisk: Un­like other green-card hold­ers, they could not spon­sor for­eign-born rel­a­tives for en­try into the United States.

That doesn't strike us as too high a price to set­tle the dream­ers is­sue once and for all, though some Democrats will likely dis­agree. How­ever, there is talk on Capi­tol Hill of freight­ing the bill down with other anti-im­mi­grant bag­gage that would be a deal-killer. That might in­clude amend­ments slash­ing le­gal im­mi­gra­tion or ad­vanc­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's bor­der wall.

Hav­ing re­scinded De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals, the Oba­maera or­der that granted dream­ers re­lief from de­por­ta­tion, Trump has shifted the fate of nearly 700,000 young im­mi­grants to Congress. Congress has proved it­self in­ept lately on many fronts, but here is one is­sue teed up and ready-made for suc­cess. Dream­ers, Amer­i­cans in ev­ery way but by the ac­ci­dent of their birth, are re­garded with nearly univer­sal sym­pa­thy. The pres­i­dent says he wants them pro­tected. Con­gres­sional lead­ers say the same thing. Isn't it high time that law­mak­ers get one big, sim­ple thing done?

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