Decades of stalling by Congress can do awful things to good people.
Frustration churns and spits back out as misplaced anger. Kansas City saw such an outburst Saturday during a town-hall meeting on immigration.
By now, everyone in America has heard about our broken immigration system and the cries for comprehensive reform. Few have been more organized, passionate and on-point than the young adults brought to this country as children without proper documents.
They’ve come to be known as Dreamers, an acronym from the almost 16-year-old legislative effort to help. The Dream Act would get them legal status and a route to citizenship. But it has never passed Congress, despite strong bipartisan support.
Former President Barack Obama used executive action to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which gave a reprieve from deportation to the Dreamers who qualify. But now the fear is that President Donald Trump will rescind that protection with his own order.
“A lot of depression, a lot of anxiety and nervousness,” is how Ricardo Quiñones described his feelings. Quiñones, 27, was among the Dreamers peacefully escorted out of U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s town hall.
Midway through the meeting, Quiñones stood and began reading a prepared statement. People shouted for him to sit down. He read louder. The crowd had been listening to a panel answer questions submitted by audience members. Technically, Quiñones was out of line, ignoring the rules of polite society. The crowd, after all, was overwhelmingly supportive of the Dreamers’ situation.
Tactics aside, though, they deserve to be heard.
They planned to make a statement on the Bridge Act, the latest congressional effort intended to help Dreamers. It would still keep them suspended in legal status limbo, extending DACA with “provisional protected presence.” It’s a workaround in case Trump yanks the rug out from under the Dreamers.
“The Bridge Act does not go far enough. It does not provide a path to citizenship and does not include protections for the parents of undocumented youth. What good is a Bridge if our families can’t cross it with us? We are tired of putting a bandage on the wound. We want to heal this wound,” reads the Kansas/Missouri Dream Alliance statement.
Cleaver’s staff took a copy. All the alliance wanted was affirmation of a commitment to addressing their plight.
Quiñones’ story is typical of many Dreamers’. He’s Mexican by birth, but American in viewpoint, having spent nearly his whole life in the U.S.
He was born in Durango, Mexico, but was brought to the U.S. when he was a year old. The family is mixed — undocumented parents, two children who are U.S. citizens by birth and Quiñones. He graduated from high school and, like any smart teenager, set his sights on college.
Then the Missouri legislature cut that off as a viable financial option. So he went across the state line and paid (with the help and encouragement of his parents) the far higher out-of-state tuition rates at Emporia State University, studying psychology.
The Dreamers are motivated first by gratitude to their own families. But they also are steeled by what America has meant to them.
So forgive a few outbursts as their patience wears thin. They are asking that America not give up on them. And they won’t give up on the U.S.