A New DREAM Act: A Chance to Dream Again

I know. I know.  There is so much going on in the news.  You’ve got Russia, Jeff Sessions, the health care conundrum, John McCain’s diagnosis, North Korea – even O.J. Simpson is back in the headlines.

I want to talk about something really important that happened today, something you might have overlooked.  Today, Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham held a press conference to announce that, along with Senators Chuck Schumer and Jeff Flake, they will be reintroducing the DREAM Act.  The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for an estimated 2 million young people (about 800,000 DACA participants and approximately 1 million more) who came to the US under the age of 17, have been resident for four years, and have not committed any crimes.

This legislation is particularly timely because of a lawsuit filed by 10 state attorney generals, including Texas’ own Ken Paxton, which argues that President Obama overreached his presidential authority in DACA.  This lawsuit raises the level of uncertainty and fear for DACA participants in an environment which is increasingly hostile toward immigrant communities and where deportations are on the rise.  Legislated protection for this vulnerable group of young people through the DREAM Act is needed now.

As an Episcopal chaplain working at the University of Houston and with community college students, I have had the privilege of working with students who have shared their stories, their hopes, and their fears with me.  One of these students was sent here on his own in his early teens to escape gang-related violence after two members of his family were assassinated.  He is an excellent student, a respectable athlete, and he is working full time to pay his way through school because he is not eligible for federal financial aid.  He is well on his way to becoming an engineer, but he wonders what will happen when his work permit expires.  Other students, who are citizens themselves, may be worried for family members.  One student told me that when her nephew was born, she cried because all she could think about was what might happen if her sister, a DACA participant, were to be picked up and deported.  Her sister has been in the US since the age of 5.  My dream for these students, who already face so much uncertainty simply by virtue of being young adults, is that they might truly feel at home in their home – that they might know love, belonging, and opportunity for learning and growth.

Admittedly, the timing does not seem right for, well, just about any kind of legislation to be honest.  However, right now the stakes are particularly high for Dreamers.  I hope you will pray, learn, and act so that these young people have a chance to dream again.

If you would like to contact your senators, now is the time.  In Texas, Senator John Cornyn has supported the DREAM Act in a previous form, and Senator Ted Cruz has vociferously opposed it.

You can find helpful resources from FWD: https://dreamers.fwd.us/. Dream Act Introduction Partner Social Media Toolkit (2)

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