Editorial: Congress should protect Dreamers from deportation

People hold signs during a rally in support of the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, in San Diego, Calif. June 18. The Supreme Court dealt President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration efforts a fresh blow Thursday when it rejected his cancellation of a program protecting 700,000 “Dreamers,” undocumented migrants brought to the U.S. as children.

The Dreamers will not have to live in fear now that they could be deported to a country they might not remember.

The fear should not have been the incessant hum in their everyday lives in the first place, but that’s been the threat for three years under the Trump administration.

The threat was lifted — for now — by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision announced Thursday. Chief Justice John Roberts, in writing for the majority, called the administration’s move to dismantle the Dreamers’ protection as “arbitrary and capricious.”

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, began in 2012 under an executive order by then-President Barack Obama. Under strict guidelines, including no felony charges, young adults who were brought to this country illegally by their parents as children could apply for protection from deportation.

Nearly 700,000 Dreamers applied in good faith — about 4,000 in Connecticut. While DACA does not provide a path to citizenship, the security from deportation enabled them to pursue higher education and careers.

Studies have shown that most DACA recipients are employed — contributing taxes. The American Action Forum estimates they contribute nearly $42 billion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product.

But in 2017 the Trump administration said the program was unlawful and tried to phase it out. No new applications have been allowed since then.

While the Supreme Court decision is welcome, it does not resolve whether DACA is lawful, only that the administration did not follow proper procedures in attempting to unravel it.

Congress must step in and provide permanent protection. Congress should finally adopt the Dream Act — Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act — first proposed in 2001.

Immigration reform is a thicket of controversy. But this much is clear: Children who came to this country through no will of their own do not deserve to be punished.

It could reasonably be argued that taxpayers’ money spent on rounding up undocumented youth and deporting them could be better directed at other efforts, such as improving lives with opportunity.

Connecticut politicians reaffirmed our state’s identity in their quick reactions to the Supreme Court decision. Gov. Ned Lamont said: “Tearing people from the only homes they have ever known is cruel, heartless and — despite what the administration may claim — doesn’t even serve a national security purpose.”

Once again, we are grateful for the compassion that drives policy in Connecticut.

In 2011, state law extended in-state tuition rates to undocumented students who attended all four years of high school in Connecticut. In 2015, the law was amended to lower the requirement to two years.

In 2018 the General Assembly approved allowing undocumented students to apply for financial aid through a program funded by student fees.

These members of society should have permanent federal protection from deportation, as long as they remain lawful, so they can live their lives without fear.

Connecticut Media Group