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PD Editorial: Dreamers get their day with Supreme Court

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Who made the following statement: “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!”

If you answered President Donald Trump, you’re right.

Yet come Tuesday Trump administration lawyers will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out about 800,000 “accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military.”

Really.

These young people, known as “Dreamers,” are undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. They were raised here and made the most of the opportunities that come with growing up in America: education, employment, public service. Many of them have few, if any, ties to their native countries; some grew up believing they were born in the U.S.

Sending them packing would be unfair and shortsighted. Our country — and our economy — benefit from these bright, energetic young people, as scores of major companies argue in a friend of the court brief.

Congress should have freed them from limbo long ago. President Barack Obama intervened in 2012, after years of congressional dithering. He directed immigration officials to allow the Dreamers to stay so long as they met certain conditions.

To be eligible, they had to have been brought to the U.S. before age 16 and be less than 31 years old when Obama’s program, known formally as Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, was announced. They must be in school or have graduated from high school, or on active duty or have received an honorable discharge from military service. Finally, they must never have been convicted of a felony or a serious misdemeanor. Those who qualified could obtain renewable two-year permits allowing them to work in the United States.

Obama’s order was an act of prosecutorial discretion — a priority-setting directive to an executive agency of the U.S. government and, as such, within his executive authority. Indeed, every president from Ronald Reagan to Obama took executive action to restrict certain deportations on political or humanitarian grounds.

In a more functional Washington, Obama’s executive order could have been the basis for a congressional compromise allowing the Dreamers to stay permanently, perhaps as part of a long overdue overhaul of U.S. immigration law.

But Congress failed to act before Obama left office, and then the fate of the Dreamers got tangled up in Trump’s stubborn demand for a border wall. When he didn’t get his way, Trump declared that the DACA program was unconstitutional — despite his public professions of support for the Dreamers and his own reliance on executive action to advance his wall.

A federal judge in San Francisco ruled that Obama hadn’t exceeded his legal authority and rejected the Trump administration’s argument that its decision to end DACA was discretionary. The ruling was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, setting the stage for this week’s hearing in Washington.

It’s true that the Supreme Court has a solidly conservative majority with the addition of two Trump appointees, but that may not foreshadow the outcome of this case. The justices rejected a Trump administration request to take up DACA prior to any lower court reviews, and in a ruling that relied on similar legal reasoning, they scuttled Trump’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. They should do so once again, allowing the Dreamers to stay.

Whatever the court decides, the next president and the next Congress must stop ducking immigration reform.

You can send a letter to the editor at letters@pressdemocrat.com.

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