writing on suffering and awakening

An open letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: Pass the DREAM Act.

Dear Mr. Speaker and Mr. Leader,

Reading coverage of the president’s decision to end the DACA program, I was struck by a quote from Javier Valdes, an activist who educates undocumented immigrant families on what to do if ICE agents knock on their doors. Describing the work, Mr. Valdes said:

Part of it is about having a conversation ahead of time with your sister, your brother, your aunt, or your grandparent, or your neighbor: ‘Will you take on the responsibility for watching my children if I get taken away?’ It is, of course, the hardest conversation.

Mr. Valdes, the co-executive director of the nonprofit organization Make the Road, notes that ending DACA means that his team will have to dramatically increase the number of people they train on this subject. Roughly 800,000 people formerly protected by DACA are now at risk of being deported.

Gentlemen, I have one question for you: is this who we want to be?

The people who sought refuge under DACA—the Dreamers—have grown up among us as our neighbors, our friends, our brothers and sisters. They may soon be torn from our midst. Do we stand by them or do we look away?

Many millions of us believe we should stand by them.

But Mr. Speaker, Mr. Leader, most of us don’t have the authority to actually stop the Dreamers from being deported. The two of you lead the one group of people who do. 

Both of you have dedicated your careers to reining in government excess. Could there be any greater example of that than federal agents punishing children for the actions of their parents, and breaking up families to satisfy the letter of the law at the expense of our decency as a nation?

The bipartisan DREAM Act would offer the Dreamers a new path to living and working legally in the United States. Gentlemen, if you bring this bill to a vote and support its passage, most members of your own caucuses will gladly join you. So will an overwhelming number of Democrats. Our national partisan divide may be deep, but almost everyone agrees that protecting the Dreamers is the right thing to do.

Perhaps from this consensus we can even start to grow a seed of greater national healing.

The people who benefited from the DACA program have done everything that was asked of them. Help our nation honor them for it, and stand by them in their hour of need. Your leadership will be remembered.

Gentlemen, I am no one in particular, but if by some chance you happen to read this, I hope that you will take a moment to consider my words.

Ian Cooper

Ian Cooper