It’s time to pass the DREAM Act
"All we want to do is work and contribute to society, so why not let us do that?"
Authored by Juan Carlos Cerda and Angel Rodriguez and originally published on dallasnews.com
Our parents brought us from Mexico to the U.S. as children in search of a better life. Each of our families made their homes in Dallas, a community that welcomed us. As undocumented students, we studied hard in school, learned English and made plans for careers helping others.
Juan Carlos graduated from Yale and began teaching kindergarten in Dallas. Angel graduated from Townview Magnet Center School in the top 30% of his class. He is now studying to become a nurse at the University of Houston. All we have ever wanted to do is give back to this country, which, as our parents hoped, provided freedom and opportunity for us.
Juan Carlos is allowed to remain in the U.S. as a participant in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA, which turned 10 years old last month, allowed Juan Carlos to pursue his dreams, but those dreams are under threat.
On July 6, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a case brought by Texas seeking to invalidate the DACA program. The appeals court’s decision is almost certain to tee up a fight in the U.S. Supreme Court. Rather than waiting for a devastating court decision, Congress should pass the DREAM Act to provide a pathway to citizenship for all “Dreamers.”
The DREAM Act is needed not only for those covered by DACA, such as Juan Carlos, but also for younger “Dreamers” like Angel, who aren’t eligible for DACA because they missed the program’s timeframe by a few years. Juan Carlos has some protections, but Angel does not because he was brought to the U.S. after the DACA-required arrival date of June 15, 2007.
DACA is a successful program, but it is temporary and doesn’t allow the stability that people need to build their lives.
Juan Carlos’ story is Exhibit A. He was one of 20,000 educators with DACA status, working with children in classrooms across the country. Then a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services computer glitch delayed his work permit renewal. He lost his teaching position.
For a time, Juan Carlos was unemployed and undocumented, not knowing where his next paycheck would come from.
Angel sometimes wonders if it is worth studying so hard if he won’t be allowed to pursue a career in nursing.
He had originally planned to become a physician’s assistant, but the program is expensive and he couldn’t take on debt that he could not pay back without work authorization. As an undocumented student, it is hard to find paid opportunities. He was offered a paid internship at Parkland Hospital, but he had to turn it down because he didn’t have a Social Security number.
Texas’ business leaders, the faith community and others are mobilizing to protect DACA and guard against other attacks on the educational opportunities and well being of undocumented young people. There are many.
In April, a federal judge ruled that allowing undocumented students to attend the University of North Texas at the in-state tuition rate is unconstitutional. And in May, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he would challenge a U.S. Supreme Court decision, in place since 1982, which requires the public schools to educate all children, including unauthorized immigrants.
Texas must not become known for its attacks on undocumented children, students and “Dreamers” like us who want to contribute to our economy. And Congress must do its part by providing a pathway to citizenship for the 2 million “Dreamers” who could help address the country’s dire labor shortage.
Like generations of immigrants before us, we are bringing the skills, talent and energy that Texas and our country need to keep moving forward.
Juan Carlos Cerda is the state director of the American Business Immigration Coalition. Angel Rodriguez is a student at the University of Houston. They wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.