Last April, a Morning Consult and Politico poll revealed that three in four of Americans who voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 support providing legal status to “Dreamers,” who are undocumented immigrants brought here as children or young adults. In total, registered voters support offering legal status to Dreamers by a steep 78-14 margin, demonstrating that legislation providing this status is welcome.
With broad support coming from every Americans of every stripe—conservative, moderate, liberal, millennials and baby-boomers—Congress now needs to provide a permanent solution for the Dreamer population. The Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act should be that solution.
During his campaign, Mr. Trump made explicit promises to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era executive action that provides protection from deportation for Dreamers. But Mr. Trump’s commitment to rolling back the program began waning early this year, and last month the administration officially announced that it has no intention of rescinding DACA protections or targeting Dreamers.
Mr. Trump has stated the situation needs to be, “handled with compassion and heart.”
His voters largely agree. Not only do a whopping 73 percent of Trump voters believe that Dreamers should be granted legal status, nearly half believe that Dreamers should be given the opportunity to become U.S. citizens. Just two out of ten Trump voters think Dreamers should be deported.
The supportive trend continues for those who identify as conservatives and tea partiers. The poll finds 74 percent of conservatives, 75 percent of tea-partiers, and 73 percent of Mitt Romney voters agree: dreamers should be provided legal status. Nearly 50 percent of each demographic goes even further, believing Dreamers should have access to citizenship.
Opponents of the Dreamers, however, refuse to back down. Ten state attorneys general are now threatening to sue the administration if it doesn’t rescind DACA protections and end the program by this fall.
The courts will handle the legality of the program pursuant to executive authority. But in the court of public opinion, Dreamers have already won by a landslide.
In order to avoid a messy legal battle and address the urgent need to implement permanent law and policy for this vulnerable population, Congress must actively respond to the resounding support from Americans by legislating a solution.
As it happens, the Trump administration has already put the onus squarely on Congress. Jonathan Hoffman, the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, has stated that Secretary Kelly believes, “Congress is the only entity that can provide a long-term solution to this issue.”
Secretary Kelly himself has also called on Congress to act. “I’m not going to let you [Congress] off the hook,” he stated. “You’ve got to solve this problem.”
Luckily, the Recognizing America’s Children Act, introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), is a sound solution to this problem.
The bill—which currently has 17 cosponsors from 12 states—provides five years of conditional legal status if applicants came to the U.S. before 2012 and were under the age of 16, assuming they are working, studying, or serving in the military. After five years they can adjust their status to permanent residency provided they meet certain strict requirements, and after 10 years they can adjust to citizenship.
As our colleague Kristie De Peña noted, “the RAC Act provides a pragmatic, secure legalization pathway that capitalizes on the most hard-working, enterprising immigrants who will continue to positively contribute to our economy and our society.”
This Republican-backed Dreamer legislation will bring stability to a population of about two million young, undocumented immigrants who know no other home than America. Such reforms would reinforce our commitment to these individuals who we, as a nation, have already invested in.
Public opinion is clear: the American people support Dreamers and their desire to become Americans. By passing the RAC Act, Congress can finally align immigration policy with the desires of the American people.