In 2012 the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was instituted by President Obama’s executive order to allow children who were illegally brought to this country (also known as Dreamers) to have assurance they would not be subject to immediate and mass deportation. This assurance allows them to qualify for work permits and to start or continue their goals of education or employment. President Trump has revoked the Dreamers deferred status, although I believe he has sympathy for their plight. The fate of the Dreamers is now in the hands of Congress.
Many of our fellow citizens and some of our politicians believe the Dreamers should not be allowed to remain in our country. This belief is based on the grounds that to continue to allow this deferment undermines our border security and threatens the rule of law in this country. Their concerns should not be ignored or dismissed, but I do believe there is a different and better way to address them.
Of course, our country cannot have totally open borders. There must be border security and we must take all reasonable and necessary measures to achieve this. It is also true these Dreamers should not be here in the first place. But we can’t simply wish something had never happened. That is not a strategy or a solution. We must face and deal with the situation before us. The purpose of this letter is not to debate the appropriateness of the executive order or its revocation. Instead we need to ask, “What comes next”? The purpose of this letter is to look beyond politics and, instead, look at people.
Our country is a nation of laws and those laws must be enforced. I am a former judge and so, of course, I believe in the rule of law. But I also believe in the American principle of justice and that the punishment should fit the crime. So, what “crime” have the Dreamers committed? They did not come to this country on their own initiative. In every instance they were brought here as minors by their parents, some of them, as President Trump has pointed out, at a very young age. And what have they been doing since arriving?
As President Trump also pointed out, they have been going to school and working. They have been getting an education so they can be the future teachers, doctors, scientists, police officers, firefighters, entrepreneurs, and business leaders this country needs for continued success. They desire to work and are not only willing but want to pay taxes for that opportunity. Some have joined our armed forces to help defend our freedom. In other words, they have worked to become worthy of the country that has nurtured them. They are a wealth of energy, brains and talent available to our country. Our nation cannot afford to throw away these remarkable people and they deserve our support.
President Trump advocates “extreme vetting” of immigrants and the welcoming of people who love our country, share our values, and speak our language. The Dreamers have been closely “vetted” for years (actually for most of their lives) because they have lived among us. We have been a witness to their lives and they pass with flying colors. They exemplify American values such as work, education, patriotism, faith and family. They are as American as the rest of us except for one thing … a piece of paper to prove it. But their lives have proven it. Allowing the Dreamers to remain in our country does not make America weaker, it makes America stronger. Supporting them is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.
The fate of the Dreamers is not only a practical issue but there is also a moral element involved. The Bible instructs us to care for the stranger and foreigner in our land. Our Lord taught us the Golden Rule…that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and that every person is our neighbor and we should love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus also told us to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. So the moral question is this. Do these Dreamers belong to Caesar or do they belong to God? I think the answer is an easy and obvious one.
That’s not to say that the ultimate solution on how to implement their legal integration will be easy. Not many things that are worthwhile are easy. It is usually harder to do the right thing than to do the wrong thing. But do the right thing we must. This is essential if we are to remain the kind of nation, and people, we believe ourselves to be.