Our Opinion: Rallying behind our threatened Dreamers

Probably the most striking aspect of President Trump's announcement Tuesday that he would roll back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was that the action was so unnecessary. Eight hundred thousand young people, brought to this country or sent for as minors — some even as infants — have grown up among us as Americans. They are guilty of no crime, and all they lack are the proper papers. Now their lives have been thrown into chaos and uncertainty, and some face being deported to countries with which they are no more familiar than those that native-born Americans' ancestors came from.

President Trump's decision was cynically political — juicy chum tossed at the circling sharks of his nativist base. Leaving DACA in place would not have harmed anyone; in fact, there are so many "Dreamers," enrolled in and enriching our educational institutions that his action has elicited a wail of lament from college and university officials, particularly here in Massachusetts and the Berkshires.

Mr. Trump has the power to unravel DACA because it was a presidential order — Barack Obama's — that enacted the humanitarian program. As such, it is easy for him to rescind it while building in a six-month delay so that Congress could ostensibly come up with a replacement plan. Assuming that Congress would be as effective at this task as it was with repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, one can only conclude that Mr. Trump knew exactly what he was doing — washing his hands of the fate of nearly one million virtual Americans to serve his own ends.

Here in Berkshire County, stunned college communities are trying to process the meaning of this capricious decision and its impact on their institutional families. Students at Williams College have formed a support group, the Coalition for Immigrant Student Advancement, and the administration will be providing drop-in hours to answer DACA questions. Staff will also reach out to Dreamer students on an individual basis.

James Birge, president of MCLA, has approached the Berkshire County legislative delegation in hopes of achieving some form of protection at the state level. A bill currently before the Legislature would grant Massachusetts DACA students in-state resident tuition fees at state colleges and universities.

Attorney General Maura Healey has joined 15 other state attorneys-general to file a federal suit in New York to extend DACA, contending the actions by the president are discriminatory. Any action that the courts could take to mitigate the harm done by leaving Dreamers twisting in the legal wind would be welcome.

On Saturday, the Norman Rockwell museum will host its annual naturalization ceremony, an emotional event that those skeptical of the value of newcomers, or even in fear of them, should consider attending. The only difference between Dreamers and those joyfully becoming citizens Saturday is the circumstances of their arrival in the U.S.

It will now take an Act of Congress to enable these valuable, productive members of our society to remain in the country that nurtured and shaped them, and to which they wish to return the favor. We urge that body to spare them further trauma, and to expiate at least a portion of the shame our president has brought upon this country.


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