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Everyone is worried about the Dreamers

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Paulina Ruiz, who has cerebral palsy, is among the more than 725,000 “Dreamers” living in limbo as they await potential immigration policy changes under the incoming administration. (photo/Alexandra Cooper)

Well, not everyone. Some people believe that anyone who is in the country illegally should be removed — period.

But there is worry within the wide swath of America that believes six things — that immigrants are the country’s life’s blood, that we ought to reward positive behavior, that it is immoral to punish children for the sins of their parents, that we should keep those people who are going to college and making a contribution, that young people who were brought here as children through no choice of their own cannot be blamed for breaking immigration laws, and that it is irrational and cruel to send young people who have spent their whole lives as Americans into a foreign country that they don’t recognize. 

There is special reason for worry for those 700,000 or so Dreamers who, beginning in the summer of 2012, bought into something called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA). This was the Obama administration’s re-election year stunt, a false promise masquerading as some grand civil rights concession for the young and undocumented. 

Here’s how the scam worked: Any Dreamer willing to step out of the shadows and apply for DACA would, if approved, be given a two-year work permit and a temporary reprieve from deportation. While Republicans complained that Obama was exceeding his authority by providing an “executive amnesty,” the White House was on firm legal ground. Congress can yell and scream all it wants, but it’s the executive branch that decides who to deport and when. So it’s permissible to shuffle the deck and reprioritize deportations so that Dreamers go last.

But there is also a separate argument that DACA was a bad deal for Dreamers. That’s because, whenever you’re given something by the government, you should read the fine print. DACA applicants had to submit their name, fingerprints, parents’ names, home address, etc. Basically, the federal government would have every piece of information it needed if it wanted to double-cross an applicant, raid their home and deport everyone inside who didn’t have legal status.

And it wouldn’t even take a double-cross, just a change in administration to one that was less friendly to Dreamers.

Say, that reminds me: Who is the president now? 

Now that the current occupant of the White House is someone who has repeatedly criticized Obama for taking executive action to manipulate immigration laws, advocates for the Dreamers are panicked that they could be snatched up at any moment by the Trump Administration’s ominous Department of Homeland Security. 

Trump has to do everything he can to put Dreamers, the families and their friends at ease. And he’s already started. 

The president recently sat down with David Muir, host of ABC’s “World News Tonight.” It went like this.

David Muir: “I wanna ask about undocumented immigrants who are here — in this country. Right now they’re protected as so-called Dreamers — the children who were brought here, as you know, by their parents. Should they be worried — that they could be deported? And is there anything you can say to assure them right now that they’ll be allowed to stay?”

President Trump: “They shouldn’t be very worried. They are here illegally. They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody. We’re going to have a very strong border. We’re gonna have a very solid border. Where you have great people that are here that have done a good job, they should be far less worried. We’ll be coming out with policy on that over the next period of four weeks.”

Muir: “But Mr. President, will they be allowed to stay?”

Trump: “I’m gonna tell you over the next four weeks. But I will tell you, we’re looking at this, the whole immigration situation, we’re looking at it with great heart. Now we have criminals that are here. We have really bad people that are here. Those people have to be worried ‘cause they’re getting out. We’re gonna get them out. We’re gonna get ‘em out fast.”

Who knows what Trump has in mind. But from the sound of it, he seems to understand that the Dreamers aren’t criminals, aren’t dangerous and aren’t a priority for deportation.             

Something else that Trump should know about these young undocumented immigrants who, regardless of how they got here, are part of the American tapestry. They’re not going anywhere. 

 

Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group, a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, a columnist for the Daily Beast, and author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano” (Bantam).

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