There’s an old joke: How do you eat an elephant (or, in the interest of bipartisanship, a donkey)?
One bite at a time.
The elephant is meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform – something both Republicans and Democrats profess to want. Both parties can’t agree on which end of the elephant to start at or what utensil to use. And they both said “no thanks” when offered a reasonable first bite.
That’s why Supreme Court justices last week were quizzing attorneys on DACA, laying the groundwork for the likely scuttling of a program that has perhaps not unanimous but very strong bipartisan approval. It seems like the one thing on which both parties could agree, a logical start on the immigration reform elephant.
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The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act protects an estimated 700,000 Dreamers, young people brought into the U.S. as children, who are eligible to stay in the country and can hold a work permit. Among the many requirements, they had to enter the U.S. before turning 16, must have completed high school or a GED, be enrolled in school or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. armed forces. And they cannot have ever been convicted of a felony, a serious misdemeanor, three or more misdemeanors of any kind or be deemed to pose a threat to public safety or national security.
DACA is for contributors to our nation. Estimates place roughly 3,000 DACA recipients in Nebraska. Under current law, they legally drive, work, pay taxes and pull their social weight like anyone else.
The policy expanded as a presidential memorandum under President Obama. President Trump and Republicans have cited it as an executive branch overreach in seeking to overturn it. Ultimately that’s the question on which the Supreme Court will rule.
The legislative branch has had the chance to address any shortcomings and fix this one little slice of immigration law. But partisan politics got in the way. And without executive or legislative branch leadership, 700,000 people – taxpayers, neighbors, co-workers – are left to the mercy of a Supreme Court ruling expected next year.
What hope does this nation have for immigration reform – or progress on any other complicated front – if we can’t come together and do the right thing when the majority of both parties – and the majority of Americans -- agree on it?
A win for the Dreamers – whether it’s a judicial or legislative solution – offers them hope. And it ought to offer a measure of hope to a nation where party too often means more than people.