Community Columns

U.S. Senate: Do the right thing and pass the Dream Act

When I taught a class at Modesto Junior College, I had the chance to meet a very talented young woman who wanted to become a pharmacist and serve her community. We’re low on pharmacists here in the Central Valley; she would truly be doing a public service once she graduated.

But, her future is uncertain because she’s a Dreamer.

She was carried over the border when she was only 3 months old. And she’s one of over 10,000 people in our community who can’t make long-term plans because Washington treats them like a political football.

Dreamers are our family, friends and neighbors. They work hard. They pay their taxes. And they’re American in every way except on paper. For most Dreamers, this is the only country they’ve ever known. They go to our schools, they participate in our communities, and they’ll grow up to be teachers, doctors, and yes, pharmacists.

These kids should be able to stay in the place they call home.

Don’t take it from me – President Trump himself has called Dreamers “good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs.”

These kids have overwhelming support. Eighty percent of the American people think they should have a pathway to citizenship. Even traditional adversaries, like chambers of commerce and unions like the AFL-CIO and SEIU, agree that Dreamers need a path to citizenship. You know why? Because this is a commonsense issue.

Under the Dream Act, Dreamers must meet strict requirements in order to qualify for a pathway to citizenship, including proof they were brought to the country as children. They have to finish high school, get a GED, or have served in the military, and they have to pass a background check. These kids are held to high standards and they’ve done everything we’ve asked of them.

But their futures were thrown into chaos in 2017 when the program was abruptly ended.

With all the bipartisan support for our Dreamers, you’d think that Congress would be able to get its act together and pass a law to protect these kids.

So, what’s the deal? Politics. Of course.

Before I got to Congress, leaders of both parties worked out a deal to help these kids. But politicians in Washington got in the way, and a deal which had been worked out fell through.

Since I got here, I’ve been working to make this right. I cosponsored the Dream and Promise Act, and we passed it through the House of Representatives just last week with bipartisan support. But the Senate won’t even take the bill up, even though it would pass with a bipartisan majority. Here in the Valley, we know better. We know these kids, and we know how important it is that they get a pathway to success. Enough of these political games.

There are lots of no-brainer policies in Washington. But 80 percent of the public, literally hundreds of groups across the country, and the leaders of both political parties all support protecting our Dreamers. The Senate needs to get this done and lay the foundation for other bipartisan cooperation.

U.S. Rep. Josh Harder’s 10th District covers Stanislaus County and southern San Joaquin County. He wrote this for The Modesto Bee.