COMMENTARY: Defining Dreamers has political ramifications

A few months ago, an organization I belong to welcomed an illegal alien as our speaker. He was a young man in his 20s. He spoke unaccented English and headed a small Delaware nonprofit. By skin color and surname, he was Latino. He was quick to self-identify.

He had come to the United States with his parents 18 years ago, when he was five years old. He grew up in Sussex County, went to our public schools and graduated from a well-known university.

He may be deported to his birth country soon. Although he speaks Spanish, he does not remember anything about Venezuela either before or after the 1999 revolution that brought Hugo Chavez and his friends to power. His parents were on the other side politically. They fled, which meant, so did he.

Reid Beveridge

DACA stands for Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals. This is President Obama’s program to allow young people who arrived in the United States as minors to remain despite the fact that, under the law, they are illegal aliens.

One way to look at this, the way Attorney General Jeff Sessions does, which is that they are here illegally and should go back to their native lands. Many conservatives agree on the theory that liberals’/progressives’ real goal here is to grant them citizenship and register them to vote, in the belief they will vote for Democrats.

Another way to look at this is that none of this is the child’s fault. They came here involuntarily in that they came with parents, or they were dumped off here without regard to their wishes, if any.

Although some of the Dreamers are bilingual, at least some are not. They never knew Latin America so they grew up speaking only English. If forced to go “back” to their parents’ native land, they wouldn’t know what to do and would be unable to speak Spanish (or if in Brazil, Portuguese; or if in some places in Argentina, Italian).

President Trump’s decision, announced by Sessions several months ago, is to terminate this program, created by President Obama in 2012 by executive order, on March 5. Trump then urges Congress to enact legislation to do something, whatever that turns out to be, by then.

Doubtless, this is what should have been done in the first place. The so-called DREAM Act, first introduced in 2001 and several times thereafter, would have legalized youthful arrivals under certain conditions. It did not pass, prompting Obama’s action in 2012. Note we said “legalize.” This does not mean citizenship, or even, necessarily, a path to citizenship.

The first problem with Obama’s DACA is that it almost certainly is unconstitutional. Before his 2012 action, President Obama repeatedly said he didn’t have the authority to do what he eventually did. Several lawsuits to invalidate that decision are pending in the federal courts and may reach the U.S. Supreme Court soon.

So now the onus is on Congress. For different reasons, neither Democrats nor Republicans have wanted to touch this issue. That is why it didn’t pass 10 years ago. Hence, it will be interesting to see what our trio of Carper, Coons and Rochester decide to do.

For the Republicans, many agree with Atty. Gen. Sessions that Dreamers are simply illegal aliens. Two points, reiterating one. This isn’t the kids’ fault. With few exceptions, they had nothing to say about whether they are in the United States or not. The second is that sending them back is cruel if they have been U.S. residents for quite a few years, perhaps most of their lives.

On the other hand, most of them are now adults. As such, they should be able to make their way, whatever that turns out to be.

That makes Republicans seem cruel and unfeeling. Democrats have a different motive, all political. They think Latinos are liberals and, if afforded the opportunity for citizenship, will rush out and vote for Democrats for Congress. That may or may not prove to be the case.

The long-term record of such in Texas and New Mexico is mixed at best. Both states have big Latino populations. New Mexico has a Republican Latino governor. Ted Cruz’s forbearers aren’t from northern Europe.

But more to the point here, Texas has a “white” population of 42.6 percent and a Latino population of 39 percent, with the balance either African-American or other. If the Democrats were right, Texas would be a reliably liberal/progressive state. But it’s not. It’s reliably Republican, and pretty conservative Republican at that.

We fully expect Carper, Coons and Rochester to vote to legalize the DACA kids. The question is whether they can vote for something President Trump will sign into law.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Reid K. Beveridge has covered politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington, D.C. He is now retired at Broadkill Beach.

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