Solve The DACA Situation Fairly

To The Reader’s Forum:

What to do with “Dreamers,” those undocumented persons who have been in the U.S. through no fault of their own and are registered under the rules of the “DACA” program. Based on action by President Trump as well as inaction by the Congress, DACA eligibles will be subject to deportation in March 2018.

Various writers and pundits have complained that it’s “unfair” to offer a path to citizenship to these people because they have not gone through the “normal” citizenship process. Also, some people mistakenly assume that DACA people will automatically become citizens. Let’s discuss.

According to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service there are, basically, three ways to become a citizen: a birth requirement on U.S. soil or abroad; an application as a minor (e.g. adoption); and application for Naturalization. The first is automatic; the second must be approved and is, therefore, automatic upon arrival; and the third requires a “Path to Citizenship” after arrival. The “path” involves a Green Card or permanent residency status, to have lived here at least 5 continuous years, have good moral character, read and write English and pass a civics test. There is nothing automatic — one may never reach the end of the path.

“Dreamers,” generally, meet the “normal” path to citizenship requirements with the exception of having a Green Card. in other words, they appear to be on a backwards path. To me, the only fairness debate should be over deciding what constitutes acquiring a Green Card or permanent residency status. Should there be a 5-year start as of the date of legislation? Should prior time in the U.S. count towards 5 years? A time/credit formula?

Because the DACA situation is considered “no-fault,” it would be unfair to demand substantially greater than normal criteria along the path to citizenship. It would be patently unfair, and personally and economically disruptive to let DACA end without resolution. DACA could be solved on its own because it is totally unrelated to other aspects of immigration. Let the notion of moral “exceptionalism” help make America great.

Paul L. Demler