Editorial: The smart, American thing to do: Protect Dreamers
September 10, 2017
First, we offer thanks and praise to Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, Colorado's U.S. senators, for signing on as co-sponsors of the latest version of the Dream Act.
The bill, backed by four Republican and six Democratic senators, would establish permanent residency and a path to U.S. citizenship for many people brought into the country illegally before they were 18 who have not committed crimes.
We applaud Republican Gardner and Democrat Bennet for working together, particularly on this issue. Most Colorado leaders understand that a hardline immigration policy — the deport-them-all stance of candidate Donald Trump and many of his supporters — would damage our state and the nation in myriad ways.
The Dream Act, first introduced in Congress in 2001 and an administrative version of which was rescinded by Trump last week, is simply the right thing to do in terms of economic, social and humanitarian policy.
And it is smart.
A Canadian senator, Ratna Omidvar, has urged her country to take in 30,000 Dreamers if Congress fails to act before President Trump's six-month deadline to pass a law protecting Dreamers.
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"They speak fluent English, they've been educated in the U.S., most of them have been to college or university, some of them have work experience," she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
"So this is America's loss, but it could be Canada's gain," she argues.
She makes some good points.
Immigration hard-liners like to complain that "we" pay for immigrant benefits. To the extent this is true — and an exhaustive National Academy of Sciences report last year concluded that "Immigration is integral to the nation's economic growth" — the greatest cost involves public education for young immigrants.
To Omidvar's point, in the case of Dreamers, the investment is made.
Deporting them allows another country to realize the ROI — whether it be their country of birth or one humane and intelligent enough to take them in.
Booting out Dreamers would be profoundly dumb, something like giving away the next Google. Bret Stephens, a conservative New York Times columnist, recently noted that Google, Comcast, eBay, Kraft, Pfizer and AT&T all had immigrant founders.
"Overall," Stephens wrote, "a 2016 study by the Partnership for the New American Economy found that 40 percent of all Fortune 500 companies were founded or co-founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants. Taken together they employed 19 million people and had revenues of $4.8 trillion."
The economic case made, let's look at social policy.
Our society is diverse and will continue to become more so. That is as much reality as the sun rising in the east each day.
Opposition to diversity and calls to deport 11 million people here illegally rather than reforming our immigration system to allow them to contribute is fear swaddled in arguments for "rule of law."
This is particularly true in calls to deport Dreamers. It is based on the idea that their having been brought here as children, when they had no choice, is an unforgivable original sin.
These same immigration hard-liners, for the most part, would claim to be Christians, but seem to forget Jesus' words: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
Which brings us to the humanitarian case.
We will again recount the story of Marissa Molina, a Glenwood Springs High School graduate and Dreamer.
Molina's parents left Chihuahua, Mexico, to come to Glenwood when Marissa was 9. On her first day of school, the only English she knew was, "I don't know English."
Through the Roaring Fork Schools, we invested in her. She and her family, like many hundreds of others in Garfield County, became ingrained in the community. She was a Miss Strawberry Days, became the first member of her family to attain a four-year college degree and spent two school years in the Teach for America program in Denver.
Now, she is community engagement coordinator at Rocky Mountain Prep, which has three charter schools in Denver and Aurora.
We have asked before and ask again: Why on Earth would this nation want to deport its Marissa Molinas?
Many like her came forward last week and spoke at a rally in Glenwood Springs.
These are young people raised in our towns who hold the promise of teaching, being law enforcement officers, starting businesses and becoming leaders. In a region faced with a squeeze of affordable housing, they are already here.
In an aging nation that needs energetic, motivated young workers, they are already here.
They grew up as Americans. They were your children's classmates and wore the team colors of local schools. They are our neighbors, our communities' children, already here.
It is right economically, socially and humanely to establish a permanent way for them to stay. In a welcoming nation of immigrants, it also is the truly American thing to do.