A solid majority of Utahns at least somewhat support a legislative solution that would allow the children of undocumented immigrants, brought here through no fault or decision of their own, to obtain legal residency and a potential path to citizenship.
However, Congress remains in a political deadlock over the issue, despite sentiments expressed on both sides in favor of fair treatment for these young people. Surely, a compromise ought to be within grasp.
The political divide is evident when you drill down into the results of a recent poll commissioned by the Deseret News and the Hinckley Institute of Politics. Yes, 55% of Utahns said they supported the act, at least somewhat. But when broken down by party affiliation, 90% of Democrats supported it, but only 37% of Republicans agreed. Among those who don’t identify with either party, support was at 59%.
The divide is difficult to understand. Yes, President Donald Trump attempted to rescind an executive order President Barack Obama had issued to create a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, but he still expressed strong support for the concept. While the Supreme Court eventually overturned his action, President Trump said his concern was that such a program should be created by Congress, not through executive order.
In a 2017 tweet, Trump referred to the children in question as “good, educated and accomplished young people, who have jobs, some serving in the military … They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own — brought in by parents at a young age.”
And yet, Republicans and Democrats seem unable to find a workable compromise. All four members of Utah’s House delegation voted against the Dream and Promise Act of 2021, which recently passed the House but faces an uncertain path in the Senate.
All four have expressed support for a form of relief for these young people, each in his own way. Some, such as Rep. Chris Stewart, have sponsored bills of their own that would prohibit deportation if the young people met certain requirements.
Reps. Blake Moore, John Curtis and Burgess Owens support a bill by Rep. Maria Salazar, R-Florida. As Curtis said in a press release, this bill would provide “meaningful and compassionate immigration reforms that keep families together, provide pathways for dreamers and give a voice to the voiceless. …”
Both sides of the aisle ought to be able to bridge their differences. Without that, we are left with executive orders, issued by presidents without benefit of the type of robust debate and compromise inherent in the legislative process.
As we have said many times, the future of these young people, often called “Dreamers,” won’t be secure until Congress passes a bill that codifies a DACA program. Executive orders, such as the Obama-era one that remains in effect, don’t provide assurances. A federal judge in Texas is expected to rule soon on whether that order is legal.
A decade ago, Utah law enforcement, business and religious leaders united to sign the Utah Compact on Immigration, a document that identified five points for driving immigration reform laws: 1) immigration is a federal policy issue and solutions should come at a national level, 2) respect for law enforcement, while focusing resources on criminal rather than civil violations, 3) keeping families together, 4) acknowledging the importance of immigrants to Utah’s economy, 5) adopting a humane approach that reflects Utah’s “unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion.
Two years ago, the same leaders met to re-sign the document, underscoring its importance.
That remains the best template available to guide lawmakers on both sides.
Congress has a duty to bestow compassion on the young people who qualify under these conditions — people who are contributing to society and who clearly have demonstrated desires to become solid American citizens.