Fabiola Santiago

Every day that House Speaker Paul Ryan fails to call vote is a threat to Dreamers

A panel discussion on Dreamers and DACA, moderated by CNN’s Ana Navarro, features U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Frederica Wilson and Ted Deutch at the University of Miami Newman Alumni Center on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017.
A panel discussion on Dreamers and DACA, moderated by CNN’s Ana Navarro, features U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Frederica Wilson and Ted Deutch at the University of Miami Newman Alumni Center on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

House Speaker Paul Ryan should’ve been in Miami on Tuesday.

To start with, he might have peeked at the future in one powerful and stirring rendition of “God Bless America” by an a cappella group made up of students from all over the hemisphere.

They were the closing act of an immigration summit Tuesday at the University of Miami that gathered business, faith, education, political, and civic leaders across the political spectrum. Through powerful storytelling, leadership and call to action, the powerful moment they created seemed to place this city of immigrants where it belongs: at the forefront of the fight for the legalization of American youth known as Dreamers.

The all-out effort is long overdue.

We’ve witnessed enough strife, enough families torn apart. We’ve witnessed injustice, partisanship, and political cowardice. We’ve seen too many of our own turn their backs on people who are immigrants — just like we once were — and join the Trumpian chorus of immigrant demonization, false pride, and fake patriotism.

“I’m angry at the lack of empathy from my community,” said Cuban-American Republican businessman Mike Fernandez. And that anger has moved him to do something. He not only masterminded the gathering, but has formed the IMPAC Fund to put money behind the effort to push for the legalization of the undocumented living among us, some for decades.

He’s angry, Fernandez added without naming the president, at rhetoric “scripted to divide us.” He sought to turn the narrative around, inviting Dreamers to tell their stories, congressional leaders to pledge support, and advocates to set a course for action. It might only have been a byproduct of the extraordinary talent in the room, but it was good to feel that communal Miami vibe that seemed to have faded after the last presidential election.

But with the clock ticking in Congress for Dreamers, we’re finally living up to who we are — and Fernandez and the others proved that we have the economic and political power to push back on President Donald Trump’s assault on immigrants. Dreamers shouldn’t be a bargaining chip on a tax or spending bill. They shouldn’t be cause for division but a reason to come together.

0670 IMPAC Immigration Summit 112817
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas speak to business and political leaders gathered at the University of Miami Newman Alumni Center on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

In poll after poll, most Americans have made it clear that they want Dreamers to stay, to continue to thrive in the only country they call home, and become what they deserve to be: full-fledged citizens.

The South Florida congressmen present — Republican Carlos Curbelo and Democrats Frederica Wilson and Ted Deutch — said they have the votes in Congress to pass a bipartisan version of the Dream Act now.

So what gives?

House Speaker Paul Ryan must prioritize the issue of legalization — and call for a vote immediately. Everyday that he fails to do that, Ryan puts Dreamers at risk of deportation, as 122 Dreamers a day lose the only protection they have — the DACA program Trump rescinded and that expires in March.

Making it in America, a new video series, takes viewers into the lives of those neighbors down the street, who maybe speak with a bit of an accent, but are no less committed to this country’s future.

The first step is that simple: Ryan must call for a vote.

The pressure will then shift to the Senate, where there’s also enough momentum to pass legislation.

In the hoopla over Trump’s tax bill and the Dec. 8 deadline to fund the government, the Dreamers shouldn’t be shortchanged.

These young people — active, energetic, committed to this country — prove over and over again that they make the best of Americans.

In their quest, the Dreamers are already making a difference.

They’re helping all of us take the national conversation, hijacked by Trump in pursuit of power, back to the noble founding idea that this tapestry of a nation was — and is — forged by waves of immigration.

It’s time to give up pandering to the president’s divisive gig, Mr. Speaker, and protect these young people.

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