As the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, I work to preach humility, support those in need and promote togetherness. That is why I am delighted to celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month this June.
Since 2014, this month has encouraged us to share the stories of our cultural roots and acknowledge the ways in which diversity enriches our country and our communities.
While this month is a time to celebrate and rejoice, it also marks two anniversaries that remind us how our immigration system is in desperate need of positive change. June 15 will mark nine years since the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA grants two-year renewable residency permits to approximately 700,000 undocumented young adults brought to the United States as children, also known as Dreamers.
Despite the fact that it helps young people who had no choice in coming here and know no other home but the United States, the program was abruptly terminated in 2017. June 18 will mark one year since the Supreme Court ruled that the termination of DACA was unlawful, but the program remains vulnerable to continued legal challenges.
These two dates in June highlight why we must pass the bipartisan DREAM Act, to help the 2 million Dreamers currently working and attending school in the United States. The DREAM Act would allow eligible Dreamers to become American citizens after abiding by strict rules for several years. Citizenship for Dreamers makes sense — they pay taxes, create jobs and serve in our military, yet they receive none of the benefits and stability that U.S. citizenship provides. Even as they live in fear of deportation every day, Dreamers are integral members of their communities who add tremendous value to our country and economy.
The DREAM Act is one of the few immigration bills that has strong bipartisan support. According to recent surveys, 75% of American voters agree that Dreamers should be allowed to remain in the United States while they work or attend school and deserve a pathway to citizenship. In West Virginia alone, more than half of voters across the political spectrum recognize the value of the Dreamers and agree that they should be allowed to earn citizenship.
Our current immigration system is one that facilitates the separation of families and embeds the fear of deportation into our childhood immigrants. Passing the DREAM Act will promote the mission of Immigrant Heritage Month and help turn our immigration system in the right direction.
While we celebrate the many diversities of the American people, let us also take action and invite Dreamers into our celebration. The DREAM Act is one piece of legislation that cannot wait any longer, as it stands to protect a deserving group of young people while also helping our nation’s economy as we recover from the pandemic. We need senators on both sides of the aisle to come together and bring the DREAM Act to fruition.