Stop talking about it; just protect ‘dreamers’
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?