Recently, I heard a story that is both sad and infuriating. A young woman of my acquaintance, a Trinity graduate with a track record of very high achievement, said that she was planning to leave our country very soon to move to a country that will welcome her gladly. This exceptional woman is a Dreamer, an undocumented immigrant, someone whose parents brought her to the United States as a young child. The cruelty of the current administration’s actions toward undocumented persons, the recission of the modest legal protections that the prior administration had given to Dreamers through DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the entire problem of living in limbo never knowing what the future might bring — all of these factors have piled stress upon stress until this extraordinarily talented women has decided she must find a new country where she can be appreciated for the many gifts she has. She has few memories of her birth country. Nothing she did of her own accord was against the law. She is as American as any young woman I know. And yet, the ugly, twisted politics of this moment now drives her away. She is America’s great loss, another country’s true gain. Shame on the U.S.
Trinity proudly enrolls 113 Dreamers this year, with the largest group supported through scholarships of TheDream.US, the nation’s largest program supporting undocumented students in college. Our great friend Donald Graham created TheDream.US with a large bipartisan group of major philanthropists. Currently, about 4,000 college students nationwide have scholarships through TheDream.US, and thousands more are enrolled in colleges throughout the nation.
I wrote about Dreamers recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education. My op-ed, “The Dream Act Remains a Distant Dream,” discusses the current political situation for Dreamers. The courts have offered the most hope, with injunctions issued to keep DACA alive for now; legislative solutions seem tenuous at best. But with a change on the horizon in the House of Representatives, we have some glimmers of hope that a legislative solution might still be possible. However, the Trump Administration will continue to hold Dreamers hostage to its demand for full funding for a border wall, something that a Democratically-controlled House of Representatives is unlikely to support. Even if Democrats were inclined to some compromise, the Trump Administration’s treatment of children and families at the border is so amoral as to defy reasonable commentary. The trauma inflicted by this administration on the children at the border will haunt those lives forever. And the inhumane treatment of children and families at the border makes compromise less likely.
I keep wondering if someone, anyone inside the White House has the courage to work for a different solution, one that treats desperate refugees like real human beings, a solution that does not take any joy in sending Dreamers back into the shadows or out of this country entirely. Nothing about the current situation makes moral sense, nor does it make much economic sense, either. Border security is costing billions even without the wall; repressing the long-term professional horizons for Dreamers forfeits our nation’s opportunity to enjoy their talent and to reap so many benefits from their presence here.
We must continue to be advocates for rational solutions to this ugly, unjust situation. Dreamers and other immigrants deserve justice, humanity and help. The United States once was a nation with a big heart and a disposition toward hospitality. We must find a way back to that country, a place that once took pride in being a beacon of hope, a place of justice, a forge for shaping effective and humane solutions to the challenges of human life.