Defend the Dreamers in our midst

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Tuesday, President Trump made the long-awaited announcement that his administration would begin to wind down the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) — ending the protections enjoyed by undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, came of age in this country and are not responsible for their lack of American citizenship. After a six-month delay — during which no new applications will be accepted — the renewable two-year permits that "Dreamers" (as they have been dubbed) have relied upon to avoid deportation will be allowed to expire.

While the president promised during his campaign that he would do away with DACA, he has been equivocal about the humanitarian aspects of sending young people who were virtual Americans in language, culture and education back "home" to countries they could not even remember, not to mention splitting up families. The six-month delay, presumably, is to allow Congress to come up with some kind of equitable solution. While that would ordinarily be the optimal and correct action for a president to take, the current make-up of that body and the unlikelihood of its resolving the matter smacks of cynicism and a desire to pander to the base rather than seek a just outcome.

This decision represents a diametric change in the way this country officially views its own identity as a refuge and haven for supplicants from abroad. If ever anyone deserved to be granted permanent residency in the United States, it would be the Dreamers, many of whom arrived here with their parents before their earliest memory. To qualify for DACA, they must be either in school or have graduated high school, and have had no serious run-ins with the law. Many have played in Little League, they have been Scouts. Their lack of citizenship is, in effect, a technicality — but the current poisonous political landscape has made the idea of easily correcting this glitch untenable.

Mr. Trump's expedient decision reverberates all the way to the local level, affecting human beings in a horrifyingly direct way. In Vermont, less than 50 people are recipients of DACA. But, as in the rest of the nation, Vermont Dreamers have, in many cases, completed their education, and some hold advanced degrees; it is absurd and counterproductive, after having trained them, for this country to deny itself the fruits of their intellects and ambition, all in the cause of appealing to the aggrieved nativists who make up the Trump base.

As Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan noted, Dreamers are productive members of our society and for many, this is the only country they have ever known.

"Under the DACA program, they were promised they could stay in this country to work, study and be productive members of their communities," said Donovan. "Our country has an obligation to honor this promise. By giving Dreamers a chance to live legally in the country they call home, we fulfill the promise of America — the opportunity for a better life for all that come to this country."

In a state whose population is getting older with each day, we should welcome anyone who wants to come here and become a contributing resident. We should also be willing to stand up for those Dreamers who call the Green Mountain State their home and have rooted themselves in our traditions of hearty independence and self-reliance. Fortunately, along with members of the state government, Dreamers also have the ACLU of Vermont, which has vowed to stand with Dreamers and defend their rights "against the Trump administration's shameful and xenophobic attacks."

As James Lyall, ACLU of Vermont Executive Director, said "It is now imperative that Congress immediately take up and pass the DREAM Act so that these hardworking young people can live their lives and continue contributing to the country they call home."

Dreamers are not foreigners; they are members of our national community, certainly as much as our own ancestors were when they immigrated.

This policy is not only unconscionable, it diminishes all of us as Americans. And as a people whose core principle is that we rule ourselves, we do have a recourse: to convince our representatives in Congress to reverse this cruel, senseless decision.

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