Seventy-three years ago this week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which banished Japanese Americans from their homes and forced them into prison camps in 1942. About 70,000 of those interned were American citizens. This dark time in our history, found to have been motivated by “racial prejudice, war hysteria and the failure of political leadership,” continues to haunt our country. And, today, there are echoes of it in our national debate, as fear and prejudice threaten to undermine our nation’s values once again.
America is facing another defining moment right now, and our commitment to being a bastion of freedom is at stake. How we respond to this challenge will impact our economy, our educational institutions, our diverse communities, and the future of the American Dream.
Today, nearly 800,000 young people in our country are still unsure of their future and scared that they could soon face deportation to a country they may have never known. Each of those 800,000 people is an individual with a unique story, but they have one thing in common: they were all brought to the United States as children without documentation.
Since Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) went into effect, these hundreds of thousands of immigrants grew up and were educated in our communities. They went to college, and have contributed significantly to our economy and our education systems. They are now teachers, lawyers, health professionals, and members of the military.
Teach for America alone has employed nearly 200 Dreamers who have served more than 10,000 students. And DACA’s impact reverberates well beyond the 800,000 recipients. Nearly three quarters of DACA recipients have a sibling, a spouse, or a child who is an American citizen. The nearly 20,000 DACA-eligible teachers at risk are role models who have students relying on them for both for education and for inspiration as they learn what it means to be an American.
Dreamers are our neighbors, our friends, and members of our communities. They came out of the shadows and went through the extensive and expensive procedure of applying for DACA, relying on a promise from the federal government that if they went through the legal processes, they would not be deported. And today, they remain in limbo. President Trump’s action to rescind DACA was cruel, unnecessary and inconsistent with the core values of our country.
The lives of DACA recipients now lie in Congress’s hands and time is running out. More than 100 young people lose their DACA protection every day Congress fails to act on the Dream Act. Passing a clean Dream Act that provides a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants brought to the United States as children is a moral imperative for the heart and soul of our nation. We cannot continue to abide by the deeply harmful policies and rhetoric that hurt our nation’s immigrants every day without doing lasting damage to everything we hold dear.
Reasonable people can differ about immigration enforcement policies, but on this there can be no disagreement: young immigrants brought to the United States as children should not be used as pawns to advance an anti-immigrant agenda.
At its best, the United States has been a beacon of hope for refugees and immigrants around the world facing persecution, natural disasters, emergencies, or seeking a better life for themselves and their families. The Jewish community must stand strong together to ensure nothing less. Courts must step in to preserve DACA and protect Dreamers. And, Congress must pass a clean Dream Act and they must do so quickly.
Dreamers should not have to wait another day wondering if they are allowed to stay in the only country they know as home.