A group comprised primarily of immigrant youth rallies for the DREAM Act during the 2018 Orlando Women's March.

Americans jilted after Congress fails to pass a clean DREAM Act — again


I don’t place my trust in a specific party or elected officials.

And yet, I still find myself angered over the most recent example of political gamesmanship taking precedence over people’s lives.

From Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell’s tweets pitting supporters of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) against each other, to the back-and-forth debates about whether we had a #TrumpShutdown or #SchumerShutdown, the rhetoric surrounding the federal government shutdown and the DREAM Act leave one important group out of the equation: the people.

At the end of the day, people, particularly those who are members of the most marginalized communities, suffer the consequences of governmental inadequacy.

Last Monday, the U.S. Senate voted 81-18 to approve another continuing resolution that will fund the government through Feb. 8. The move came on the heels of a federal government shutdown, which lasted all of three days after the Senate failed to obtain enough votes to temporarily fund the government at status quo levels.

The fiscal year for the federal government runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 of each year, and the House and Senate still have yet to come to an agreement on their 12 appropriations bills.

One of the topics at the heart of the ongoing discussions is the DREAM Act, a bill that includes a path to citizenship for people who are undocumented, have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and meet specific qualifications. The bill has been introduced and reintroduced multiple times over the course of the past 17 years, repeatedly garnering bipartisan support but never enough to turn the proposal into law.

The fight for a clean DREAM Act has been going on for many years now, but there has been a renewed effort in recent months due to President Donald Trump’s rescission of the DACA program, termination of TPS for four countries, increased and seemingly indiscriminate Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests and anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the White House.

DACA specifically was never intended to be a permanent solution to fixing our broken immigration system, but the stopgap measure was a step in the right direction.

The 2012 executive order former President Barack Obama issued allowed immigrant youth and young adults who met certain criteria to apply for deportation deferment every two years.

As a result, an estimated 800,000 young people have been able to apply for work permits, drive and attend college. Since the program ended, thousands of young people have lost their DACA status, thus putting them at increased risk for detention or deportation. In fact, there already are cases of young adults previously covered by DACA being detained.

And now, we as a nation find ourselves in the midst of a crisis created not out of necessity, but design.

A crisis for which both parties shoulder blame, as the government has once again delayed passing fair, humane, much-needed immigration reform.

A Republican president ended the aforementioned programs and has repeatedly sought to create hardline, nativist policies, including but not limited to funding a border wall, ending the visa lottery program and placing additional restrictions on the number of the family members immigrants can sponsor.

A Republican legislature also overwhelmingly voted in favor of keeping the government open without addressing the immigration issues at hand while pushing for similar measures during negotiations.

Meanwhile, Democratic leadership promised to address the problems surrounding DACA before adjourning the legislative session, with some committing to withhold their votes on stopgap spending bills. Ultimately, though, all but 16 Senate Democrats voted in favor of the Jan. 22 continuing resolution that reopened the government without immigration legislation.

Any and all leverage the Democrats had in the discussions — namely 11 of the 60 votes needed to pass a spending bill — was sacrificed for an empty promise Sen. McConnell made about “intending” to reach a bipartisan solution.

We, the people, elect our officials to office in the hopes that they will pass legislation that truly represents our best interest.

Debates can be waged about the merits of such a sentiment, but one cannot deny the significance of the role elected leaders play in enacting policies affecting every aspect of our lives.

While I am a strong proponent of grassroots organizing and understand from firsthand experience the power of ordinary people when it comes to affecting change, we need our elected officials to do their job, listen and prioritize the needs of their constituents over political expediency.

This requires a series of fundamental changes in the way politics operate in this country, and although I don’t have an answer to this conundrum, I’ll continue using my platform to challenge our representatives to do better and encourage people to be aware and take their leaders to task.