Guest Editorial: McCain plan the right one to solve DACA question
Young people should be treated as non-combatants in any war. That’s especially true when the kids are de facto Americans who were educated in American schools and raised on America’s ideals.
Yet the White House has begun an insidious redefinition of "Dreamers" from innocents in the immigration wars to outsiders who not only don't belong here, but are getting in the way of an agenda for the American people.
Donald Trump is doing this in several ways.
First, he is coupling dreamer legalization to building the border wall. If there's no wall, there's no legalization for dreamers, he says.
He repeated that position in response to a bipartisan proposal from Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Christopher Coons that provides help for young people protected by DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – and addresses border security, but not the wall.
Trump’s second strategy to undermine strong public support for dreamers was launched during the State of the Union, when he said: "Americans are dreamers, too.” Of course they are. No one said they weren’t.
Trump’s phrase is drenched in resentment. It implies dreamers really don't belong here and their needs are being considered before the needs of the American people. If they are seen as outsiders, it is easier to ignore their plight. But they are not outsiders.
Use of the term “dreamer” for undocumented young people who were raised in this country was intended to show how much like us they are. They share our dreams. They are not trying to steal them.
They are a group of undocumented people who did not commit what many see as the original sin of crossing the border illegally. They were brought here as children. They committed no crime.
The president focuses on a few young undocumented immigrants who have committed violent crimes as another part of a twisted strategy to suggest that any sympathy for dreamers is misplaced. Trump knows dreamers are screened and must pass rigorous background checks. So would any measure Congress passes to help them gain legal status.
That brings us to the McCain-Coons bill, which is similar to a bipartisan bill in the House offered by Republican Rep. Will Hurd and Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar. Neither includes the billions for a wall that Trump wants. Both include assessing and improving operational control of the border, with the requirement for the secretary of Homeland Security to submit a plan to Congress for border security.
If the wall is a good idea, it will survive scrutiny by Congress as part of a larger immigration package. Congress should remember that it is a co-equal branch of government. It was designed to do much more than submit to the president.
House and Senate members should use their law-writing power to shape protections for dreamers. Congress long has failed to do the hard work of passing immigration reform. If Trump is the skilled negotiator he claims to be, he may be able to help them make progress.
But Congress is the controlling authority here, and the first task is protecting dreamers.
Congress needs to reject the White House attempt to marginalize the dreamers and use them as negotiating tools in a larger fight.
Congress needs to give long overdue legal status to the dreamers first – and fight the other battles over immigration soon after.
The Arizona Republic, Feb. 6