Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasn’t settled the status of either the “Dreamers” or the estimated 11 million other undocumented residents living here.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should get an Academy Award for her portrayal of someone who gives a damn about the Dreamers during last week’s debate to avoid a government shutdown. The California congresswoman gave a record-breaking eight-hour speech Wednesday in a failed effort to include language protecting the Dreamers in a budget deal.
But Pelosi was one of the architects of that deal, and in fact praised its passage following her futile soliloquy. “We had a great bill; we got everything. Republicans gave away the store,” she said.
Everything? The Dreamers didn’t get anything. They are still facing a date with deportation unless Congress extends the life of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act.
Not to be outdone by Pelosi as a thespian, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the stage to promise debate on legislation to protect the Dreamers if Democrats didn’t block passage of the budget deal to prevent a shutdown. He seemed sincere, but his statement left plenty of wiggle room.
“It would be my intention to take up legislation here that would address DACA and border security,” McConnell said.
Need the Kentucky senator be reminded that good intentions provide the pavement to hell? The Dreamers need more than his intent. They need him to do more than allow debate on the issue. They need McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan to agree to earnestly work with Democrats on comprehensive immigration reform.
That shouldn’t be hard for McConnell, whose wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Cho, emigrated to this country from Taiwan when she was 8 years old. Cho’s success story should put McConnell firmly in the corner of Dreamers, who only want a chance to continue their pursuit of the American dream. Yet he has seemed ambivalent about resolving their plight.
There are about 700,000 immigrants in this country who had little choice but to enter the United States illegally with their parents. Most are law-abiding, tax-paying individuals who have become our neighbors, our coworkers, our children’s classmates, fellow church-goers, and friends. Many have lived among us for years. They know no other home. There’s no good reason to insist that they leave.
Millions of others who by their own volition crossed the border illegally to get into this country also deserve an opportunity to stay. That can’t happen without immigration legislation that goes beyond extending DACA. Congress has come close but each time lacked the political will to accomplish comprehensive immigration reform.
Passing the necessary legislation isn’t impossible, but play acting by congressional leaders won’t get it done. They need to stop talking about it and fashion a solution that keeps the dreams of people who want to be productive citizens from being held hostage to shortsighted political agendas.