The House of Representatives said yes. Yes to Dreamers and people with Temporary Protected Status. Yes to 2.7 million immigrants who want a path to safety and to citizenship. Yes to the 80 percent of the population that polls say support the Dreamers. Yes to the dream and to the promises that lady in the harbor makes.
That yes may not stand for long: the negative voices of the Senate and the anti-immigrant administration will try to kill it, but at least for today we can celebrate saying yes to the dream and the promise.
As cynical as we may become in the face of broken promises and lies and racism and politics-as-usual, the hope of immigrants should restore some part of our own dreams.
Last year 756,800 immigrants became new U.S. citizens. That’s 16 percent more than in 2014, and the number could have been even larger: the backlog of applications for citizenship and for permanent residence grew by a million people during the first year of this administration.
Millions more cannot even apply for permanent residence. “Unauthorized” or “undocumented,” they live in a legal limbo, not allowed to “get in line” for any kind of permanent status. Young Dreamers with DACA status are not allowed to apply for permanent legal residence. Armando Peniche Rosales told his DACA story yesterday:
“I’ve always loved libraries. When my parents first brought me to Denver from southern Mexico when I was nine years old, the city’s libraries were welcoming and familiar places where I felt like I belonged. I spent countless hours there after school finishing homework, checking out movies or dreaming about visiting the faraway places described in the books I picked off the shelves. Today, I’m a library program associate at the Valdez-Perry branch of the Denver Public Library in the heavily Hispanic Globeville, Elyria and Swansea– or GES – neighborhood. There, I organize homework, science and art programs for kids who come to take refuge in the library just like I did.
“But while I work to make the library a safe space for our city’s children, I myself live in constant fear and uncertainty – because in September 2017, President Trump ordered the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, which gives immigrants like me who arrived here as children the right to work and live without fear of deportation. “Although a court order allowed me to temporarily extend my status, I worry that I’ll lose my job and my right to stay here with my 8-year-old U.S. citizen son.“
Armando and 2.7 million others need the American Dream and Promise Act. Behind them, another 8 or 9 million mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers need comprehensive immigration reform to allow them to stay with their families, in the homes they have built here, in the jobs that support and build this country.
Immigrants come believing in this country’s promises of safety and democracy and opportunity. We can do no less than work to make those promises true, for them and for all of us.