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Editorial: Give ‘Dreamers’ path to citizenship

Maria Angelica Ramirez carries a large key reading "My Dream" during a protest outside the office of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and Congress passing a clean Dream Act, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Doral, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Maria Angelica Ramirez carries a large key reading "My Dream" during a protest outside the office of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and Congress passing a clean Dream Act, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Doral, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Earlier this month, Trump administration officials said they are crafting a legislative package aimed at closing immigration “loopholes.” It is about time. Immigration should have its rules and procedures, and they should be enforced.

A particular population in the United States – about 3.6 million people at last estimate (January 2018) – however, is in a gray area. They are the children who were brought to this country by their parents.

You have heard them categorized in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is an American immigration policy that allows some individuals who were brought to the United States illegally as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit in the U.S.

They also are referred to as “Dreamers,” which relates to a piece of legislation called the Dream Act. Introduced in 2001 – and never passed by Congress – it would have given its beneficiaries a path to American citizenship. Thus, they are dreamers.

These people fall roughly between the ages of 16 and 35; the vast majority came from Mexico, though many others were born in Central and South America, Asia and the Caribbean.

Here, the state Supreme Court has wrestled with their status and whether they should receive lower tuition rates for college. Just this past week, the justices ruled 7-0 that it is illegal to allow those in the DACA program to pay the same tuition as other state residents, meaning they may have to pay more next year if they want to attend any of the state’s three universities or community colleges.

Simply put: our country faces an immigration challenge – one that has received many Band-Aids and lip-service over the years.

At the same time, consider what the Dreamers are facing.

They should not be punished for the decisions their parents made to cross the border illegally. They had no choice. In turn, if they meet all the conditions originally presented by the Obama administration, they should be allowed to have the same lower tuition as other in-state residents.

This is less about politics and more about the government keeping its word when DACA was put in place. It also is about being fair when it comes to not holding the children responsible for the choices their parents made. That would be like making the child pay a fine for their father’s speeding ticket, when they were merely riding in the back seat and that is where Dad buckled them in.

The United States should take action to give Dreamers a realistic path to full citizenship.

In the meantime, how the Trump administration approaches closing immigration “loopholes” will be of great interest. Will it include “amnesty” and be more complex than a fortified border wall? Regardless, those efforts should extend to the children – and not only the parents who brought them here in the first place.

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