Editor's note: As the March 5 deadline for action on DACA approaches, the Daily Sun asked a group of engaged citizens – none is an elected official or a declared candidate – to answer a set of questions on Dreamers and immigration reform. Following are their answers:
1. Now that the deadline has been eased, how important is it to resolve DACA compared with other issues before Congress?
Luis Fernandez: Dealing with DACA is probably the single most important issue that Congress has right now, if for no other reason than because Congress failed to act on this issue for over a decade. It is time to step up and be fair to these young people who are caught between nations.
Joy Staveley: I think DACA should be addressed along with other important issues in Congress. It should not be further delayed.
Lori Poloni: The importance hasn't changed. DREAMERS have been kept in limbo for too long. It is time to pass a clean Dream Act immediately.
David Howe: For the hundreds of millions of people who have no relatives or friends in DACA status, or who are not competing with them for employment, it isn't particularly important. For those who are currently in DACA status, the status quo has suited them well, and I don't believe their situation will change much in the end, so it really isn't very important to them, either. (My understanding is that DACA applies to people who were brought into the US at a young age.)
Ricardo Guthrie: I think DACA resolution is important for Congress to resolve because it is symptomatic of their willingness to take action that may require bi-partisan cooperation. If DACA cannot be resolved, it’s doubtful that other issues can be dealt with. This one seems like a “no-brainer” to fix—extend the deadline.
Donald Young: That is hard to answer. Congress seems to get nothing done with that really dumb Senate rule of needing a super majority to bring a bill to the floor.
Harriet Young: It is uniquely cruel to keep young people who are American in every sense, in limbo any longer. I think Congress has a moral obligation to write a law that admits that they already are Americans.
Patrick Payne: To resolve the DACA issue is paramount.
Holly Taylor: I think it is important to act while there is sentiment among over 3/4 of Americans of all political positions in favor of providing DACA recipients with permanent safety from deportation, and a path to citizenship.
Ann Heitland: I don’t know why we assume Congress can’t work on more than one thing at a time. They have scores of committees and hundreds of staff. Let’s do immigration and education reform while also investigating fraud and waste in the defense department, formulating a strategy to prevent election interference, pass some sensible gun control laws, and enact net neutrality. While we’re at it, let’s finally pass a reasonable bill to get the Hopi Tribe the land it was promised in 1995. Congress needs to stop focusing on the theme of the week and do some real work.
Dick Monroe: Because Dreamers are part of society and courts have ruled Trump's executive order negating Obama's executive order is unconstitutional, Congress should move on to other issues and have the Supreme Court define the scope of Presidential executive orders.
2. Should Dreamers be dealt with separately or part of comprehensive immigration reform?
Fernandez: Ideally, Congress should have enacted immigration reform comprehensively, but now it makes sense to deal with Dreamers separately. However, separately means dealing with DACA issues only, while also leaving out the “wall”.
Staveley: The Dreamers must be dealt with as part of a comprehensive immigration reform package, or we will never see secure borders and will never stop the flow of illegal entrants. President Reagan granted amnesty with a promise that the borders would then be secured. As we know, Congress never followed through on their promise. That will happen again if we don’t deal with the Dreamers as part of a full reform program.
Poloni: This issue should be handled separately. Dreamers have become political footballs tossed about when we combine this issue with comprehensive immigration reform. It is inhumane and immoral to barter with people's lives.
Howe: I don't think comprehensive legislation is ever very well done, so I believe the entire reform of immigration should be broken into independent bills, EXCEPT that DACA and border security HAVE to be addressed together. Border security (primarily a wall at the southern border) MUST be complete before anything regarding DACA is enacted to allow them to gain legal status; if not, the lure of a possible life in the United States will continue to bring people across the border illegally.
Guthrie: Dreamers should be dealt with separately because their situation might ease the comprehensive reform that is needed for “immigrants”. I don’t see Dreamers as “immigrants”: they were brought to the US before the age of consent and should be treated as US citizens—they need a break.
D. Young: No. It must be part of a comprehensive immigration reform. Piecemeal solutions only bring more problems later.
H. Young: The Dreamers are the lever to get immigration advocates to go along with an immigration reform. Hardliners want to build walls and cut off family unification. The only thing that might get some Democratic votes in Congress is combining it with legal status for the Dreamers.
Payne: Comprehensive to me means all-inclusive, complete and across-the-board.
Taylor: This should not be entangled with the much more contentious issue of other immigration reforms. The president should be encouraged to separate addressing DACA from everything else, which he originally seemed to favor.
Heitland: Separately, because the President separated the issue when he wrongfully reversed the Obama administrative rule. Having created a crisis for several million-innocent people, the Administration and Congress should fix this without further excuses or delays.
Monroe: Because the Dreamer situation was caused by legislative inaction on immigration, the issue of children brought to the U.S. by people illegally skirting our immigration and citizenship laws needs to be an important part of any legislation.
3. When or if it is enacted, what should or shouldn’t immigration reform contain?
Fernandez: Immigration reform needs to contain a clear, fair, reasonability timed (not 10 or 20 years) path to citizenship. As an immigrant that arrived in the late 1970s and benefited from a simpler system, I have spent my entire professional life giving back to our community, educating people, and working to build a better world, and these young people deserve the same.
Staveley: Immigration reform should first and foremost secure our borders. As part of securing our borders, it should end the Visa Lottery program, end chain migration, and end “sanctuary” cities. The bill should give immigration preference on a merit-based system. The Bill should provide a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, and allow them to remain in the Country legally (perhaps with something like a green card) until citizenship is earned. Dreamers who have been convicted of felonies should not be granted citizenship, and should be deported.
Poloni: Paths to citizenship, no banned countries, no border wall.
Howe: Several elements have to be included: Real, physical border security; humanitarian consideration of DACA members, to include restricted amnesty for their parents and siblings only, with chain immigration not to extend any further in the family, and the same rules should apply to families who have had children born in the US, with eventual citizenship a possibility for the children only with a few exceptions. ; limited amnesty for non-criminal illegal immigrants, not to include citizenship except for certain qualifying circumstances such as honorable military service; a working system to track visitors and visas much more closely. It should also include a streamlining of immigration court procedures, and legislative restrictions on the courts to eliminate nuisance lawsuits trying to prevent the DOJ from carrying out the law.
Guthrie: Moratorium on deportations, and a reasonable pathway to citizenship for those already in the country. They require worker protection, and a timeline for moving from “immigrant” status to the next stage—whether that requires “guest worker” status or something is up to reformers to decide.
D. Young: End the lottery system; only bring in those who have the skills we need; stop bringing in people just because their relatives are here. Whoever comes in must be vetted.
H. Young: Oddly, those who want to admit only highly educated, fairly wealthy immigrants are setting up competition for good jobs in America. Those folks get jobs in Silicon Valley earning hefty salaries. Who’s going to pick strawberries in California and apples in Washington? Middle America is corporate farming country. Who’s going to work for the wages Monsanto is offering to do the grunt work? Medicaid recipients? Medicare recipients?
Payne: Do we really mean reform immigration law? Or reform the manner in which we have allowed immigrants to enter and remain in our Country illegally?
Taylor: We are a country with a long history of open doors, and welcoming attitudes. Addressing the lengthy backlog of visa requests, etc., with sufficient staff and funding is critical to retaining this point of view.
Heitland: That’s a big question and I’m no expert. Unemployment is low and some industries are starving for highly-skilled workers. The immigration system should be able to answer that problem as well as maintain our nation’s heritage as a refuge for the oppressed. We had a vetting system for refugees and immigrants, but the State Department has been cut so deeply under Trump that its hard to say what is left. All of these things and probably more need to be handled in a comprehensive reform package.
Monroe: Immigration and citizenship overhaul should include border security, how applicant immigration process should be administered, and any path to citizenship for certain individuals already in the country illegally.
4. What does the longstanding stalemate over this issue in Congress signify to you?
Fernandez: Unfortunately, this signifies the power of a nativist movement that arose in Arizona and then took hold nationwide. Like many other political issues or our time, decisions in Congress are being made not for the benefit of all, but rather for short-term interest of specialized groups.
Staveley: Unfortunately, both sides are playing politics with this issue rather than doing the right thing. The right thing is to enforce our laws—the ones on the books now. This means stopping illegal entrants to our Country, and deporting felons. No other Country allows people to enter illegally without consequences. The longstanding stalemate signifies to me that both sides see stopping illegal immigration as a threat to keeping themselves in office.
Poloni: It signifies an inability of Congress to do its job, but more it shows the complete ineptitude of this administration and the Republican-controlled Congress to really do much of anything.
Howe: It indicates that both party establishments have some kind of interest in keeping the status quo, and neither is willing to give it up in order to solve the problem. Since the press has thrown in on the side of Democrats against any idea of border security being important or even possible, it has to be included as part of the reason the public doesn't understand just what a big problem this is. Without pressure from the public, legislators have had carte blanche to do nothing but point fingers, yet illegal immigration is a problem that could actually end the noble experiment of a democratic republic based on the rule of law and a common national vision of itself.
Guthrie: Stalemate signifies the collapse of relevant “party” leadership among both Democrats and Republicans. Both are proving to be out of step with citizens, and have consistently proven they are incapable of making political decisions in the best interests of the people.
D. Young: Our great nation is in trouble.
H. Young: The stalemate is a symptom of Congressional sclerosis based on the way the congressional districts cluster people who think alike into districts. This encourages the parties to play to their own most extreme participants and offer no reason to be conciliatory. The gun argument shows this as well. There are single issue voters whipped to a frenzy by profitable issue groups. There is a lot of money to be made by telling opinionated people what they want to hear.
Payne: Does not signify a thing. But said another way, does prove that stupid is irreparable.
Taylor: It appears that we have accepted a dysfunctional national legislative body, with job retention more important than working for the larger picture and what would improve the quality of life for all. We need job training, infrastructure repair and expansion, much increased education funding, and much more.
Heitland: In 1986 when Reagan championed an immigration reform act, it included legalization for over 3 million immigrants who came here illegally before 1982. Since then, “amnesty” and “border security” have become political buzzwords that Republicans toss around to get re-elected. We need to have people think more deeply about these issues and not react emotionally to the demagoguery and racism.
Monroe: The stalemate is an indication of Democrat unwillingness to cooperate on any policies or legislation whether to the benefit or addressing a problem affecting our country until they are back in power.