Every day, 122 young undocumented immigrants who were raised in this country and are known as Dreamers, are losing their legal protection, their livelihood, and their liberty because Congress has failed to act.
Over the last four months, Congress has had the opportunity to pass a Dreamer bill that provides permanent protection, but Congress has delayed taking action, making one excuse after another.
Their delay has put thousands of Dreamers in jeopardy.
Since 2012, Dreamers have been protected from deportation through a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). President Obama created the program through executive order after Congress failed again and again over the years to pass legislation that would protect Dreamers who came to this country as children and who studied, worked, and built their lives here.
The DACA program protected roughly 800,000 young people who are American in every way, except for their papers.
The program protected Dreamers like Irving, an aerospace engineer; Itzel, a human rights activist; Carlos, a local firefighter; Dulce, an attorney; and many more who are teachers, parents, mechanics, business owners, and so on.
Above all, the Dreamers are people who love this country, are invested in its future, and call it home.
On September 5, 2017, President Trump announced he would end DACA, preventing the Dreamers who were turning 15 years old from applying and preventing those with status who range in age from 15 to 35 years old from renewing.
Consequently, close to 15,000 Dreamers have lost their protection, and that number grows every day Congress does not act.
That means thousands of our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family members now live with the fear of not making it home safely, of losing their jobs, and of not being able to provide food and shelter for loved ones.
It’s now January, and Congress must act. No more excuses and no more delays.
By January 19, Congress will have to pass a spending bill to keep the government running. This is our opportunity to move Dreamer protections forward.
A bipartisan Dream Act has been introduced in both the Senate and House that would allow Dreamers to earn their citizenship. The bill has the overwhelming support of the American people.
Because Republican leadership will need Democratic votes for their spending bill, this is the moment that Democrats (and Republicans of good conscience) must ask for a vote on the Dream Act or a similar bipartisan bill.
Members of Congress failed to use their leverage in December before two other deadlines for must-pass bills. They cannot let that happen again.
Without the leverage of a deadline, it is unlikely that Congress will be able to pass a bill, any bill, and especially in an election year when immigrants, once again, will be treated as scapegoats rather than fellow human beings with dreams just like ours.
A Dream Act delayed will be protection denied, and that is unconscionable.
There are moments when our ability to protect people is out of reach, but this is not one of them.
Congress, you have the power and the responsibility to extend protections that are under your control. The president may have created this crisis, but you can end it and you can do so now.
Do the right thing.
About the author: Andrea Guerrero is the executive director of Alliance San Diego, and is currently in D.C. urging lawmakers to pass protections for Dreamers, one in five of which live in southwest border counties.