Nine young men and women whose parents brought them to the United States as children without proper documentation were arrested last month after staging a bold protest. By traveling to Mexico and then trying to legally reenter the U.S., they hoped to highlight the plight of an estimated 1.7 million young immigrants who also came to the U.S. as children — and to press for passage of the Dream Act, which would offer them a conditional pathway to citizenship.
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The nine protesters took a huge risk. They might not have been allowed back into the U.S.; as it was, they were held for the better part of a week in an Arizona detention center while the government figured out what to do with them. But Tuesday, federal officials agreed to allow their cases to go before an immigration judge, who will decide whether they should be granted asylum.
Surely, deporting them will serve no purpose. They, like other so-called Dreamers, merely want to make a life in the only country they have known as home. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that if all 1.7 million were permitted to participate in the U.S. economy, it would result in revenue of more than $2 billion annually, mainly from income and corporate taxes paid by the newly legalized workers.
Whether or not the nine win their bid for asylum, it won't resolve the predicament of the rest, who remain in limbo because the Republican-led House has repeatedly blocked the Dream Act, which holds out the hope of citizenship for young immigrants who graduate from high school and go on to college or the military. The House recently upped the stakes by threatening to de-fund the Obama administration's order that grants young immigrants a temporary reprieve from deportation.
Now the House is once again stalling, claiming that a piecemeal approach to immigration reform is the best way to fix the nation's dysfunctional immigration system while at the same time cynically refusing to allow any legislation to come to a vote on the floor.
Preventing these young people from gaining legal status won't help deter illegal immigration. All it will do is punish them for the deeds of their parents.
There are plenty of moral and economic reasons for Republicans to support the Dream Act, if they could briefly put partisanship and ideology aside.