Former national security leaders warn Congress that ‘time is running out’ to protect Dreamers

  • Former top national security officials wrote a letter urging Congress to pass the Dream Act in the upcoming spending bill, before time runs out.
  • Young immigrants known as “Dreamers” will soon begin losing work authorization and protection from deportation, due to President Donald Trump’s decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
  • Lawmakers have introduced the Dream Act to replace DACA, but the legislation has not yet reached the floor for a vote.
  • Among the immigrants who could face deportation if no legislation is enacted are roughly 900 military servicemembers and recruits.

A bipartisan group of 13 former top national security officials urged congressional leaders in a letter on Tuesday to pass the Dream Act by the year’s end to protect the thousands of young immigrants who could face the risk of deportation as early as March.

The former officials warned that hundreds of thousands of immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” are already facing “negative human consequences of the program’s termination,” and urged House and Senate leaders to include legislation to protect them in the Congressional spending bill that must pass by December 8 to avoid a government shutdown.

The letter, first published by Axios, was signed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former defence secretaries Leon Panetta and Ash Carter, former CIA directors General Michael Hayden and John Brennan, former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, among others.

“Neither the House nor the Senate has agreed upon a legislative solution to resolve this critical issue. Time is running out,” the letter said. “With every day that passes, these Dreamers are getting closer to the reality of deportation.”

Trump announced in September that his administration would begin phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Obama-era policy that offered temporary work authorization and protection from deportation to young immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as children.

Unless Congress enacts the Dream Act, the proposed DACA replacement , immigrants will begin losing their DACA protection en masse starting in March. If passed, the act would allow the Dreamers to earn permanent residence and eventually American citizenship. Those who recently renewed their status will retain their status for roughly two years before DACA expires.

At the time of the announcement of the program’s termination, DACA protected roughly 690,000 young immigrants. Since then, approximately 22,000 Dreamers failed to renew their status by the Trump administration’s October 5 deadline, and some have already lost work authorization and protection.

The former officials said they were particularly concerned about the roughly 900 DACA recipients who are either currently serving in the US military, or are recruits waiting to start boot camp. Those individuals have “a strong desire to serve our nation,” and often possess valuable language or medical skills, the letter said.

“These Dreamers are eager to serve our country, whether in their individual communities, or in uniform abroad,” the letter said. “Rescinding DACA without a concrete legislative solution puts these Dreamers at risk.”

The officials also warned of the estimated $US7.5 billion cost of deporting every DACA recipient, arguing that government resources would be better spent focusing on “combatting the very real threats we face,” including violent criminals, terrorist attacks, and cyber attacks.

“Deporting soldiers would be a waste of resources, but more importantly, a travesty of justice,” the letter said. “We should leave no man or woman behind. Let that be our guiding principle.”

Read the full letter below:

Dream Act Letter by Michelle on Scribd