Let’s Make a Deal on Immigration: Dream Act with Money to Rebuild Houston, Puerto Rico, Mexico

09/22/2017 05:59 pm ET Updated Sep 25, 2017
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump unilaterally rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that many immigrants who came to the country as children — myself included — rely on.

This radical policy change was followed with news that an agreement had been forged between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and President Trump, allowing for a legislative solution for Dreamers in exchange for extensive “border enforcement”.  

This is unacceptable. The American people are demanding urgent legislation that secures a path to citizenship — like the DREAM Act — for those young immigrants affected by the loss of DACA.

Even two-thirds of Trump supporters believe Dreamers should be allowed to stay and become citizens. 

An acceptable compromise, however, could be the Dream Act in exchange for funds to provide immediate relief to Houston, Puerto Rico, and Mexico who have suffered extensive destruction by raging hurricanes and earthquakes.  

As both parties vie for a solution, this is the opportunity to explore an agreement that can be an alternative to legislation tied to partisan politics of the wall or border security.

Erika P. Rodriguez/The New York Times/Redux

A few weeks ago, the House of Representatives voted to pass a relief bill of $8 billion to support recovery efforts in Houston. But that’s just a fraction of the total damage, which by latest estimates could add up to $180 billion.  

Moreover, the federal response to Hurricane Harvey’s devastation in Texas has quickly depleted the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund, which dropped by $2.14 billion to $1.01 billion. 

This is the time for Congress not just to send prayers but also our dollars to rebuild our own cities and support our southern neighbor.  

Clogging the Dream Act with draconian immigration policies — like billions more for private prisons — is in direct contrast to our identity as a nation of immigrants.   

As a lead negotiator in the 2014 immigration reform debate, Senator Chuck Schumer gave in to Republican demands on the "border surge," nearly doubling the current border patrol force to 40,000 agents from 21,000, as well as for the completion of 700 miles of fence on the nation's southern border.

It was hoped that the deal would secure the support of at least 70 senators, more than enough to overcome a filibuster and send a strong message to then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to pressure his Republican conference to approve the bill. 

The legislation ultimately failed in the House, but not before being inflating by billions in handouts and establishing an unworkable border enforcement standard. As Congress begins to forge an agreement on immigration, we can’t fall into the traps of the past.

No action on a immigration solution has real consequences: thousands students and hardworking young immigrants will begin to lose their protection against deportation as soon as this month.

When the floodwaters in Houston and Puerto Rico eventually recede, the people will come back to cities with no clean water, no electricity, and no food.

We can’t throw our families and other immigrants under the bus in exchange for green cards. We can, however, make a deal to pass the Dream Act with billions to rebuild our nation. 

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