As a child growing up in public housing, my mother always taught me that with hard work and a focus on education, I could accomplish my goals and live my dreams, the American dream. Unfortunately, that is not the case for hundreds of thousands of children in America today.
Through no fault of their own, these children face uncertainty about their future and their ability to succeed or even remain in America. These are the “DREAMers," the children who were brought to America by their parents via illegal immigration.
I’ve long been an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration and I remain so. But I refuse to watch these children be punished for the actions of their parents. The United States has become the home for these children -- and this should absolutely not be a partisan issue, or even a political issue. While I understand that they did not arrive here in accordance with our country’s immigration laws, it is simply not right to hold these children accountable for that.
Congress needs to secure the immigration status of DREAMers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Additionally, it is perfectly logical for Congress, at the very same time, to take real steps to secure our borders. Personally, I just don’t see how doing the right thing for these kids, and doing the right thing for our country by securing our borders, are partisan issues. These are just plain common-sense actions for Congress to take.
It’s time to stop trying to make this complicated. It’s also time for the folks in Washington to stop talking about “comprehensive” immigration reform. Washington struggles to do anything right, let alone to do something comprehensively right. Whenever they talk about a “comprehensive” anything in Washington, one thing you know for certain -- nothing will get done.
There is no doubt that there are many other immigration reforms that should be considered. Congress should look at all those issues, but they should stop the fanciful notion of doing everything at once. Congress has to stop trying to get the grand bargain done, since baby steps are about all we can ask or expect from this Congress. And Congress must take care of the DREAMers and secure the border.
Florida is a welcoming state and is home to people from all around the world. We are a tremendous melting pot where more than 200 languages are spoken. However, former president Barack Obama was wrong to address this issue by executive order. He should have done it in conjunction with Congress, which is how our democracy works.
I was encouraged by the approach of Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo to address this problem with the Recognizing America’s Children Act, which was co-sponsored by leaders in the Florida delegation, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. DREAMers have waited too long for a legal solution for their future in the country they call home, and this bill provides one.
I believe that immigration policy becomes much simpler once we secure our borders and we put an end to illegal immigration. It completely escapes me why anyone opposes securing our borders, and why critics in Congress try to use their opposition to border security as some kind of a bargaining chip. In an increasingly dangerous world, don’t all Americans want our borders to be secure? Safety is not a partisan issue. Simply put, I believe that legal immigration makes our country stronger, and illegal immigration makes us weaker.
In Florida, we pride ourselves on being the gateway to the world. Many DREAMers live in our state because they are in search of what we all care about: a good job, a good education and the ability to live in a safe community. It’s time for Washington to secure our borders and to do the right thing for these kids by removing the uncertainty hanging over their future goals and dreams. It’s really not too much for us to ask Congress to get these things done.
Rick Scott is the 45th governor of Florida. Follow him on Twitter: @FLGovScott. This op-ed first was published in USA Today newspapers.