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In favor of Dreamers

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students celebrate

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students celebrate in front of the Supreme Court after the Supreme Court rejected President Donald Trump's effort to end legal protections for young immigrants on Thursday in Washington. Credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

 The Supreme Court got it right Thursday when it ruled that President Donald Trump cannot proceed with his ill-advised plan to remove deportation protections for some 700,000 young immigrants known as Dreamers.

The administration’s latest ham-handed attempt to jettison an executive order by the Obama administration ran aground, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, for reasons of process: “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.” Roberts and the court’s four liberal justices found that the Department of Homeland Security did not. Roberts pointed out that the administration also never considered the hardship that deportation would place on the Dreamers who had relied on Obama’s legal protections.

The ruling does not bar the Trump administration from trying again to end the program, putting the issue of a safe haven for Dreamers right in the middle of the presidential election.

So the onus for settling the fate of the Dreamers — about 13,000 of whom have been estimated to live on Long Island — is back where it has been all along: Congress. Politically polarized, lawmakers have been unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform, or any immigration reform. Dealing with the Dreamers should be the most straightforward element of that. Fairness requires that Congress finally stop this cruel game.

Let’s remember who these people are. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, allowed children age 15 or younger brought to the United States illegally before 2007 to get residency status and work permits, renewable every two years, as long as they have no criminal records and meet certain education requirements. It includes no path to citizenship.

These Dreamers are students or workers who pay taxes, not criminals. They have been part of the fabric of their communities for years, if not decades. Some don’t even remember the countries from which they came. Life here is the only life they know. They have earned their places, and it is unfair to keep them in limbo any longer. Some two-thirds of Americans support giving Dreamers legal status. Congress should make DACA permanent, and provide a path to citizenship for those in the program.

Predictably, Trump turned the Supreme Court’s decision into a rallying cry for his base, calling the ruling “horrible & politically charged.” He even invoked violence, terming this and other recent decisions, presumably including this week’s ruling that gay and transgender employees are protected from discrimination by civil rights law, a series of “shotgun blasts into the face of ... Republicans or Conservatives.” That was shameful. In truth, the court probably did Trump an electoral favor. The optics, and politics, of deporting young Dreamers during this presidential campaign would have been terrible.

The Dreamers were brought here on a promise. Most have lived up to its terms. It’s time for Congress and the president to protect them.

— The editorial board