Earlier this month, a group of young people gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol to fast in support of Congressional action to pass the DREAM Act. One was Luis, from Arkansas, whose parents brought him here at the age of seven to escape poverty and violence in Mexico.
From the day he first served as flag guard at his elementary school, Luis felt like an American, proud of this country and wishing to serve it. He dreamed of joining the military and wearing the uniform that bears this same flag. But Luis’s undocumented status made this dream impossible.
Undeterred, he then pursued a career in nursing so he could earn a decent living while helping save others’ lives. After he graduated from nursing school in 2010, however, Luis couldn’t find a job without a work permit. Only after he registered for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program could he find work legally.
Now Luis is traveling across the country as a cardiovascular intensive care unit nurse to support short-staffed hospitals, and this summer he helped care for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
Luis’ story resonates with us because it is a thoroughly American tale. Nearly all of us have immigrant forebears who faced danger to come here with little else but a dream and the drive to achieve it. Many brought young children, who grew up viewing themselves no different from their peers who were born here. The only difference between those earlier young immigrants and today’s DREAMers are the documents their parents carried.
America is great because it is built on compassion for those who, in spite of difficult circumstances, often outside of their control, nonetheless strive to better themselves and those around them. Deporting hundreds of thousands of young DREAMers like Luis simply because their parents came here improperly would be a terrible wrong, and it would be incredibly short-sighted.
Ending DACA would significantly harm our economy, with a projected impact of $433 billion in lost GDP over the next decade, according to the Center for American Progress. Many DREAMers registered under DACA are bright innovators and entrepreneurs. We don’t want to lose their talent – we want them to launch their businesses and create jobs here in the U.S., not elsewhere.
President Trump acted unjustly in ending the DACA program, and now Congress has no excuse but to do the right thing and correct this error. To that end, we’ve partnered to force legislation to the House Floor for a vote that would permanently remedy the precarious situation in which these young DREAMers now find themselves.
The current House Republican leadership has not allowed such legislation to reach the Floor under the normal process. As a result, we are working to force it to the Floor through a procedure known as a discharge petition.
Beginning this week, every single Member of Congress will have the opportunity to add their names to our petition. If a simple majority of Members signs it, the DREAM Act can come to the Floor. We believe that a majority of Representatives from across the country are ready to vote in the affirmative and embrace the principle that if you grew up here and love this country, you ought to be able to stay and create jobs here and contribute positively to our communities.
President Trump has already indicated that he would sign the DREAM Act into law, and the bill has shown signs of strong support in the Senate. DREAMers like Luis are now looking to the House to act – and act it must. They – and our country – cannot wait six months for DACA to end before Congress takes action. A tweet from this President is not enough of a guarantee for their safety from being targeted for deportation. Our nation’s DREAMers need the peace of mind now that only Congress can provide.
We are asking all of our colleagues – both Republicans and Democrats – to join us in signing the petition to bring the DREAM Act to the Floor and passing it. Let’s work together to send a message that America is stronger when our policies are based in compassion and common sense. Let’s use this opportunity to ensure that DREAMers like Luis can continue to call this nation home.
Steny Hoyer is House Democratic Whip and Michelle Lujan Grisham is the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair.