Americans remain divided about immigration, yet one belief continues to hold significant bipartisan support: Children should not be pawns in our larger political battles.
On this matter of fairness, Congress should pay attention to Florida. As politically divided as any state, Florida lawmakers found common ground to offer equal opportunities to the children of undocumented immigrants who find themselves in this country through no fault of their own.
A child who attends our high schools for at least three years and graduates here is allowed to pursue higher education at in-state tuition rates.
Why should we penalize students who succeed in our schools, follow our rules, and exemplify American values?
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Regardless of political party, and regardless of how we resolve issues related to undocumented adults, we should value the achievements of youth who attain a U.S. high school education, show strong moral character, and go on to college or serve in the military.
We should provide a legal pathway for these skilled young adults to work and contribute to our economy and local communities.
That is exactly why the bipartisan DREAM Act has been re-introduced earlier this summer.
That is also why Americans still oppose ending — by more than 2 to 1 — the 5-year-old policy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a rigorous screening program for youth that has served as a stopgap measure.
A policy supporting opportunity for stay-in-school youth is both sensible and popular, but political gridlock on immigration has frustrated a permanent bipartisan solution.
An undocumented child who entered a Miami-Dade kindergarten in 2001, when the DREAM Act was first introduced, might now be finishing an associate’s degree at Miami Dade College or serving with our military in Afghanistan.
Yet by Sept. 5, Texas and nine other states intend to challenge DACA through the courts if the Trump administration does not end the policy.
Terminating DACA would subject hundreds of thousands of young success stories to sudden deportation as a result of their parents’ decisions.
This would not only undermine our educational investments but cause major disruption for those already in the workforce and their employers.
In a sign of the policy’s underlying popularity, 14 of 24 states that in 2015 challenged a broader expansion of DACA have not joined this smaller coalition. Florida is one of the 14 states no longer challenging the policy, and Florida alone has more DACA-eligible youth than nine of the 10 challenging states combined.
On both moral and economic grounds, we all benefit from this young generation’s pursuit of the American dream.
These exemplary youth did not knowingly violate US immigration laws, but they can contribute to our country as young adults if offered the chance.
They merit our support by enacting the DREAM Act—and until then, by standing by the DACA policy.
Alberto Carvalho is superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.