The message voters sent their elected leaders in the midterms is clear: “no” to MAGA extremism, “yes” to pragmatic policy solutions. In the lame duck session of Congress, our elected leaders have a golden opportunity—and face a tight timeline—to respond to this cry and forge bipartisan solutions to our broken immigration system.
The centerpiece of any such legislative package? Create a path to citizenship for Dreamers—young undocumented immigrants who came to America at the average age of 6, now average 27 years old, and are American in all but paperwork.
Here is why action before the end of the year is essential. DACA, a very successful and hugely popular program that protects over 600,000 Dreamers, hangs by a judicial thread. The Trumpified federal courts, including the Supreme Court, are preparing to end DACA as early as next year. The Biden administration, despite multiple attempts to fortify the program, has very limited authority with respect to executive action because of these court decisions. And if, as expected, the GOP takes control of the House of Representatives next year, hardline leaders have promised to oppose any DACA deal.
The only viable path to a solution? For Senate Democrats and Republicans to strike a deal centered on DACA and Dreamers and include it on the budget bill that must pass by the end of the year. It’s not an overstatement to say that if America wants to protect Dreamers, it’s now or never.
It didn’t have to be this way.
Former President Obama introduced DACA by executive action in 2012. Since then, over 800,000 young people have been protected from deportation and issued work permits so they could pursue their studies and careers. CEOs of major Fortune 500 companies are calling for action to protect DACA and Dreamers. They are alarmed that the worker shortage will get worse for the United States if hundreds of thousands of critical workers are driven from their jobs.
Dreamers serve on the frontlines of the pandemic response. They are doctors, nurses, first responders, soldiers, students, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. They pay billions in federal, state and local taxes. They are our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones.
Unfortunately, ever since DACA began, Republicans have opposed it. They blocked immigration reform legislation in Congress and took to the courts to end DACA. In fact, they deployed the same playbook they used with Roe v. Wade: appoint conservative judges; find favorable courts to further their political agenda; force a fight all the way to a conservative Supreme Court to get the result they want.
As a result, there is only one way forward. What’s needed is for a few brave Senate Republicans, many of whom have said they could support protections for Dreamers in the past, to join with Democrats to save the day.
If they do, the nation will cheer. By more than a 2-to-1 margin (68 percent to 32 percent), Americans across all racial and ethnic groups want Congress to take up protections for Dreamers in the lame duck (this is based on an election poll of 12,500 voters). Among Latino voters in battleground states, support for legislation to protect Dreamers is overwhelming: Texas (82 percent), Pennsylvania (79 percent), Arizona (83 percent), Nevada (77 percent), Florida (78 percent), Colorado (80 percent), North Carolina (84 percent), and Georgia (87 percent).
The other option—kowtowing to extremism—is a loser. A majority of white voters (52 percent), Black (73 percent) and Latino voters (67 percent) say they are worried about extreme Republicans who refuse to condemn white nationalists and extremists who promote hate and attacks against minorities and immigrants.
Unless the GOP shifts direction, their identification with hardline xenophobes will continue to be a major barrier for Republicans determined to pick up more Latino support in 2024. We know Senate Democrats want a deal, and we will do our part to make sure they act with urgency. In fact, Senate Democrats have made it clear they want to meet Republicans halfway on their concerns regarding border-related issues.
The moment of truth—for Dreamers and for an America that wants Congress to formally recognize Dreamers as the Americans they already are—is upon us. It’s time for sensible Senate Republicans to detangle themselves from the extremism of the far right and align themselves with the clear majority of Americans on this issue.
A breakthrough is urgently needed and imminently doable. It’s up to leaders from both parties to seize the opportunity.
Sergio Gonzales is the executive director of the Immigration Hub.
Maria Teresa Kumar is the CEO of Voto Latino.
The views expressed in this article are the writers’ own.
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