The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday June 29th

Column: North Carolina would benefit from the Dream Act

<p>(From left) Valerie P. Foushee, Graig Meyer and Verla Insko speak to the audience at Orange County's Democratic Party's election party at Might as Well in Chapel Hill in November 2018.&nbsp;</p>
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(From left) Valerie P. Foushee, Graig Meyer and Verla Insko speak to the audience at Orange County's Democratic Party's election party at Might as Well in Chapel Hill in November 2018. 

The OC Voice is a portion of the OC Report newsletter where local residents may have a platform to talk about local issues they care about. Graig Meyer is the State Representative for House District 50, covering portions of Orange and Durham Counties. He can be contacted at graig.meyer@ncleg.net.

I love helping young people pursue their dreams. Prior to entering the legislature, I spent sixteen years running the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate program. Over that time period, 97.5 percent of our students graduated from high school and went on to post-secondary education. It felt like we were fulfilling dreams every single day.

Unfortunately, there was a small group of those bright and talented young people who bought into the American Dream with their whole hearts, but whom America has yet to fully embrace. These students did their best to live up to the promise that if you do well in school and stay out of trouble, you can be anything you want to be in the United States. And although the young people have done their part, the United States has deferred their dream because they are undocumented immigrants.

Dreams deferred are broken dreams. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was an executive order expanded by President Barack Obama in 2014. It offered 787,580 young Americans — 60,000 in North Carolina alone — the promise of living the American dream by providing them with work permits, drivers' licenses and relief from deportation. 

A Center For American Progress analysis finds that the average DACA recipient arrived in the United States in 1999, when they were just 7 years old. And more than one-third of DACA recipients, 37 percent, arrived before age 5. When hundreds gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday as the Court heard oral arguments in a case that asks whether Trump has adequately explained why he wants to end DACA and chanted “Home is here,” it’s because most dreamers know no other country as home.

And now, the life that hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients have built for themselves hangs in the balance. Distressingly, the court’s conservative majority signaled that they would side with the Trump administration, allowing them to end the DACA program. So where do we go from there?

Congress can act, but unfortunately, Mitch McConnell and Republican Senators have repeatedly failed to pass any immigration laws helpful to these young people or their families, including blocking the Dream and Promise Act, passed this summer by the House. The Dream Act, which would offer DACA recipients a path to citizenship, remains just that: only a dream without Congressional action. 

As one of the greatest nations on earth, we have risen together as Americans. If we can claim any exceptionalism, it is because of an implicit moral promise to protect and lift up the most vulnerable in our country, including the youngest among us. DACA was a temporary protection, but now even it is at risk. To fulfill the promise of the American Dream, we must pass a clean Dream Act.

My former students who became DACA eligible are working in health care, education, business and many other fields. They have integrated into our country, and we are benefitting from their contributions. They are my students, your classmates, friends and coworkers.

As with most immigration policy, the real change here has to come through Congress. But from my view here in the state, all North Carolinians would benefit from Washington stepping up to make dreams come true.

 If you live in Orange County and want to make your voice heard on something you care about locally, email city@dailytarheel.com. 

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