Miami Herald (Sunday)

Bill to allow DREAMers to emerge from the shadows deserves bipartisan support


Florida is home to almost 25,000 undocument­ed people who were brought to the United States at a young age. They came through no fault of their own. These DREAMers, who go to our schools, are friends with our children, and are our neighbors and colleagues, deserve an opportunit­y to achieve the American Dream.

It is time Congress work together in a bipartisan manner to allow them to come out of the shadows and continue contributi­ng to our communitie­s without the fear of retributio­n. Last month, I joined with several other Republican­s in the U.S. House in voting for the American Dream and Promise Act to extend legal protection­s for DREAMers. They would allow DREAMers to get a driver’s license, go to school, legally obtain work, own a home and fully integrate into the country they consider home.

The legislatio­n was by no means perfect. No legislatio­n that comes out of a partisan, gridlocked process is perfect, and this legislatio­n is far from the ideal solution. Despite banning gang members from falling into this protected status, in its current form, this bill does not allow immigratio­n officials to use local, state and national databases to identify gang members. The bill also moves the entry deadline up by four years, allowing 18-year-olds to come to the United States just before the January deadline and qualify for protected status, disregardi­ng the original intent of DACA recipients to be for young children.

As this bill and other legislativ­e proposals make their way through the Senate process, I urge senators to move forward on a clean version of the bill and to eliminate these poison pills. We cannot wait any longer to fix the dire situation facing DREAMers who are already here. The majority of Americans support extending protection­s to DREAMers, and by politicizi­ng the process the way House leadership did, we are only making it more difficult to build on that consensus and deliver meaningful results.

In a broader context, Congress must work together to solve the immigratio­n crisis at hand. In partnershi­p with the administra­tion, we must work quickly and decisively on actions that will secure our southern border, first and foremost, meets the economic needs of the United States and establishe­s an immigratio­n system that does not put migrants who entered the country illegally ahead of those who followed the rules.

Several weeks ago, I joined Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and several other colleagues in El Paso, Texas, to visit the border. While there, I met a Honduran family with young children. When I asked why they had chosen to make the journey to the United States, they indicated that President Biden’s policies and rhetoric would make it easier for them to be successful in immigratin­g here illegally. When we talked to Customs and Border Protection agents, many agreed with the premise that the current policies and rhetoric, which include halting the constructi­on of the border wall, are an invitation to make the trip. It is clear that we must continue to explicitly enforce our immigratio­n laws and secure the border by fortifying physical barriers and technologi­cal capacities to halt illegal crossings.

The United States must also flex its foreign policy toward Latin America to disincenti­vize illegal immigratio­n. With the Marshall Plan serving as a model, rapid investment­s by the internatio­nal community into Latin America, particular­ly Central America, will help create important industries and improve sociopolit­ical conditions — the very reason why so many decide to try to enter the United States. As former Vice President Mike Pence told then-Argentina President Mauricio Macri in an official trip through Latin America, “The advancemen­t of freedom and democracy in Latin America benefits the cause for freedom everywhere.”

By making an earnest effort to extend legal protection­s to DREAMers, implement bold strategies to secure the southern border and re-engage with our Latin American partners, I am confident that we can begin to move toward a comprehens­ive fix the nation’s immigratio­n crisis.

I am committed to building a country that works for all people willing to follow the rules and work toward a better life. It is an incredible honor to represent the diverse, patriotic, hardworkin­g people of South Florida. America has a lot to learn from Florida’s success as a state where our difference­s are valued for their ability to make us stronger.

We never lose sight of the ideals that unite us — no matter how different our background­s or immigratio­n statuses may be.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez represents Florida’s 26th congressio­nal district in Miami-Dade County, where he was mayor from 2011 to 2020.

The sunshine bathing his Rose Garden is so bright that Joe Biden can’t help but squint as he looks out and starts saying hello to the many people he invited into his back yard. He knows them so well, by now, that he simply calls them by their first names. He also understand­s that even in his sunlit yard, they are surely still feeling their dark cloud is somewhere overhead. It’s been following them everywhere, ever since that godawful day.

“Mark and Jackie, I want to tell you it’s always good to see you, but not under these circumstan­ces. … It takes a lot of courage to come to an event like this. … Mark and Jackie, whose son, Daniel, was a first grader in Sandy Hook Elementary School, Daniel loved sports, loves outdoor sports, getting muddy.

“I see my friend Fred Guttenberg. His daughter, Jamie, was a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She was an accomplish­ed dancer. I see Brandon Wolf, the shooting at the Pulse

Nightclub; he survived, but his two best friends died. Greg Jackson, who was just walking down the street when he was caught in crossfire of a gunfight.

“Of course, I see a close friend of Jill’s and mine, Congresswo­man Gabby Giffords, who is here, who was speaking with her constituen­ts in front of a grocery store in her state when she was shot and a member of her staff was killed. They’re here, and their pain is immense. . . .

(I)f you’ve gone through a trauma ... every time you show up at an event like this, it brings back when you got that phone call.”

Joe got that phone call 49 years ago (car accident; not a gun). But, as Joe discovered, the feeling never really goes away. It becomes a core part of who you are. And that is what all of us are discoverin­g now, about Joe.

We have seen presidents who seemed made to lead by the strength of their exceptiona­l leadership gifts — FDR. We have seen a president who seemed made to lead by inspiring a new generation with his presence and eloquence — JFK. We have seen a president who seemed able to lead as if he were portraying Hollywood’s dream combinatio­n of those two — RR.

President Joe Biden has none of the above qualities of traditiona­l or theatrical leadership.

No Ph.D. has been awarded for a thesis on Scranton Joemanship. But somehow, as we have been beset by the COVID-19 pandemic and all the leadership failures that crippled us in recent years, we seem to be seeing the one sort of commonsens­e leadership that we have long lacked. Indeed, we may have seen it coming together, maybe just a bit, on Thursday.

Scranton Joe was there, challengin­g the world’s most irrational­ly naysaying nation to finally give common sense a try by accepting broader, tougher, newera modernized controls on the gunslaught­er that has long bloodied the United States and baffled the world as the country seemed unwilling to curb our addiction to combat-styled, rapidfirin­g guns.

Thursday, Biden announced executive orders and other new initiative­s: Require “ghost gun” kits, that users can assemble into unregister­ed guns, to bear registered serial numbers and require presale background checks. Place new restrictio­ns on brace modificati­ons that can transform handguns into mini-rifles. Promote “red flag” state laws to permit authoritie­s to temporaril­y confiscate weapons from people who have been judged potentiall­y harmful to others. Biden also wants to reestablis­h the assaultwea­pons ban we had for a decade, before then-President George W. Bush allowed it to expire.

Biden also reported to us some hard-hitting news that the mass media must have missed last month as we mourned two massshooti­ng tragedies in six days, where a gunman in Georgia killed eight people (six of them Asian Americans) and a gunman in Colorado killed 10.

“You probably didn’t hear it,” news anchor Biden told us, “but between those two incidents, less than one week apart, there were more than 850 additional shootings — 850 that took the lives of more than 250 people and left 500 injured.

“This is an epidemic, for God’s sake, and it has to stop.”

Ordinarily, we’d just nod our heads at that sort of talk and know nothing will change. But Ordinary Scranton Joe may be the one unusual leader who can make common sense happen — especially in a desperate America that finally sees we are indeed battling not one national epidemic, but two.

Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentar­y executive.

©2021 Tribune Content Agency

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