There are an estimated 690,000 people in limbo in the U.S. — including more than 6,000 in Minnesota — people brought here as babies or children who now wait every day, hoping for a reprieve that will allow them to stay in the only country most have ever known.
It has been months since President Donald Trump rescinded the Obama-era executive order that created DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that allowed undocumented children brought to this country by parents to legally work, attend school and, more important, be free from the worry of deportation. He gave Congress six months to create a legislative alternative, and while many members have professed their support for a solution, so far there has been no clear agreement on what that should be.
That should end. Congress actually has a reasonable compromise that could end the agony of those who are frightened at the thought of being ripped away from the lives they have built.
The Recognizing America’s Children Act has drawn the support of several dozen Republicans, including Minnesota Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen. It would provide a pathway to citizenship after 10 years. Applicants would first get a five-year, conditional permanent resident status, then obtain green cards. After five more years, they could become naturalized citizens. In the meantime, they would be permitted to travel outside the country, which DACA does not allow. They would, according to Paulsen, have to either be in school, employed or in the military to maintain eligibility.
That is a longer path than many Democrats and DACA recipients would like, and some may object to the conditions, but at this point it is imperative that Congress find a solution that can pass a GOP-controlled House and Senate and be signed into law by a Republican president. Most Democrats support the DREAM Act. But the bill has failed to gain traction in three presidential administrations, and Democrats would be wise to get behind a bill that meets at least some of their goals.
Paulsen said he recently met with dreamers in Minnesota, including a young woman who came here at age 3. “She told me how she cared for her siblings while going to school, graduated from Augsburg College,” he said. “This is the only country she’s ever known. We want to make sure people like her will be contributing to America as productive citizens. We need these immigrants who, for all intents and purposes, are America’s children.”
Paulsen said that if the Recognizing America’s Children Act came up for a clean vote — not as part of other legislation — it likely would pass, and he’s frustrated at GOP leadership’s refusal to allow such a vote.
Because it was a presidential order, DACA was never going to be anything more than a stopgap measure. Such a far-reaching program requires the permanence and stability offered by law. This country needs the talent, drive and commitment already demonstrated by these young immigrants who consider themselves Americans in every respect. A nation built on immigrants must not turn its back on them.