Keeping the Dream Alive
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
KEEPING THE DREAM ALIVE: Washington will fight for its Dreamers, leaders around the state promise.
President Donald Trump this week ordered an end to the Obama-era executive action that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, calling the program an “amnesty-first approach” and urging Congress to replace it with legislation before it begins phasing out on March 5, 2018. Meanwhile, the federal government will no longer accept new applications from undocumented immigrants to shield them from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
Administration officials said the roughly 800,000 beneficiaries of the program—brought to the United States illegally as children—will not be immediately affected by what they called an “orderly wind down” of former President Barack Obama’s policy. According to the most recent data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, nearly 18,000 Dreamers reside in Washington state, many of them enrolled in college.
“Because of the logistical realities that attend winding down these protections, announcing this on a ‘six-month delay’ is very likely to be identical in practical terms to announcing it today for a large majority of those 800,000 people,” Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent observed. “And for that large majority, it means they are losing their protections in the very near future, upending the lives of hundreds of thousands who currently are working or pursuing an education and had hoped to continue making positive contributions to American life.”
Many states and most colleges oppose targeting this group for aggressive deportation.
“Western Washington University has been, and continues to be, strongly opposed to ending a program that provides hope and opportunity for more than 800,000 young people across the country, including many Western students, their families and friends,” WWU President Sabah Randhawa said in a statement. “Western’s commitment to our undocumented students, and our policies regarding immigration status will not change.”
Gov. Jay inslee characterized as cruel any efforts to deport thousands of young people who are Americans in every way that matters, who have done nothing wrong, and who—importantly—really have no country to receive them, having lived in the United States the majority of their lives.
“The administration threatens the ability of these young men and women—many of whom know of no other place to call home—to pursue the incredible opportunities our nation promised them five years ago,” Inslee said.
“While we remain relentless in our efforts to keep these young people home, the real solution is for Congress to act immediately to pass the bipartisan DREAM Act,” Ihe added. “The DREAM Act would provide the lawful reassurance and protections these young people need. The ‘build a wall’ and ‘deport them all’ mentality in the White House is an affront to the principles this nation was founded on and an irresponsible response to our outdated immigration system. Congress must seize this urgent challenge and stand up for Dreamers, now.”
“More than 17,000 Dreamers call Washington state home. Washington state will consider every option possible to challenge the repeal of DACA, including legal action, coordination with other states and any executive action that could help protect Dreamers,” Inslee said.
In 2014, Washington passed its own version of the DREAM Act, the REAL Hope Act, making Washington the fourth state to allow qualified undocumented students to apply for federal student aid. Undocumented immigrant labor makes up about five percent of the state’s workforce. The bill was sponsored in part by Kevin Ranker (D, Orcas) and passed strongly in a bipartisan vote in the state Senate, 75–22.
The state is not without legal resources of its own that it may bring to bear in support of the Act passed by the Legislature, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson noted.
“As Attorney General, I will use all the legal tools at my disposal to defend the thousands of Dreamers in Washington state,” Ferguson said.
“If President Trump follows through on his decision to cancel DACA,” he continued, “the Washington Attorney General’s Office will file suit to halt this cruel and illegal policy and defend DACA recipients.”
In July, anticipating aggressive administrative action on immigration, the Washington AG joined counterparts in 19 other states urging support of DACA and promising to defend the program in court if necessary.
“Young adults granted DACA are among our newest soldiers, college graduates, nurses and first responders,” the AGs noted in their letter. “They are our neighbors, coworkers, students and community and church leaders. And they are boosting the economies and communities of our states every day. In fact, receiving DACA has increased recipients’ hourly wages by an average of 42 percent and given them the purchasing power to buy homes, cars and other goods and services, which drives economic growth for all.
“The consequences of rescinding DACA would be severe,” the AGs warned, “not just for the hundreds of thousands of young people who rely on the program—and for their employers, schools, universities, and families—but for the country’s economy as a whole. For example, in addition to lost tax revenue, American businesses would face billions in turnover costs, as employers would lose qualified workers whom they have trained and in whom they have invested. And as the chief law officers of our respective states, we strongly believe that DACA has made our communities safer, enabling these young people to report crimes to police without fear of deportation.
“There is broad consensus,” the AGs concluded, “that the young people who qualify for DACA should not be prioritized for deportation.”
Passing the decision to Congress, which has shown itself unwilling to address the issue of Dreamers, is itself a decision. It is a decision to expose the Dreamers to a dark and disastrous future.