Congress after Congress, Republican and Democrat alike, buffeted by cyclones of competing immigration interests, failed again and again to act as the children have grown up, gotten educations, gone to work and had families of their own.

Those young people have, for all intents and purposes, become de facto Americans. Many remember no other life. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, was introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2001 to shield them from deportation and offer a path to citizenship. It has gone nowhere.

A clearly frustrated President Barack Obama in 2012 signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival Act as a temporary executive order on the heels of yet another congressional failure to act on the DREAM Act.
DACA allows undocumented young people who meet certain requirements to receive renewable, two-year protection from deportation. It also allows them to work and go to school in this country, but offers no path to citizenship.

President Donald Trump, during his election campaign, fumed DACA was an “illegal amnesty,” and last week rescinded the program. He allowed a six-month phase-out, handing the ball once again to a Congress still deeply divided on the issue. Then, inexplicably he told “Dreamers,” “You have nothing to worry about.”

Today, there are about 800,000 “Dreamers” under DACA’s protection and perhaps 500,000 more who qualify, but have not applied. There are 134 in Alaska.

Surveys show at least 25 percent of them live in California — typically, in Los Angeles. Most came from Mexico or Central America when they were 6 years old. A significant number are from Korea and other Asian countries.

The Orange Country Register this month reported on a University of California, San Diego, survey by associate professor Tom K. Wong. Among other things, with 3,063 respondents in 46 states, Wong found “Dreamers” median age was 25.

Seventeen percent were married to an American citizen; 26 percent had an American child. Ninety-one percent were employed; 5 percent have started their own business; and, 16 percent bought a house.
Wong also found 45 percent were in school. Of those, 71 percent were pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher. Twenty-eight percent already had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Make no mistake, I am a dyed-in-the-wool, Attila the Hun conservative on some issues. Immigration is near the top of the list. A nation has the absolute right, duty and obligation to protect its borders and its citizens. Our nation does that badly and the 11 million to 30 million illegal immigrants residing here attest to that.

But “Dreamers” are a different case. If we were going to stop them, we should have stopped them at the border with their parents.

The young people had no choice in any of this. Brought here as children, they have grown up and become us. Many, if not most, would be lost in their country of origin. It would be like snatching a Valley kid and dumping him or her in Hong Kong.

Who would do that? Are we a nation that would, even for a nanosecond, consider breaking up families, separating parents from their children? (Overlooking, of course, our shameful past dealings with Native Americans, blacks and others.)

Obama, it pains me to say, is right on the DACA issue. After Trump’s action, he fired off a statement calling it “contrary to our spirit, and to common sense” and “self-defeating,” “a political decision, and a moral question.”

“Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages,” he wrote.

Moreover, it is lousy policy, and a political failure, with painful human consequences. Driving out these young people will not fix our complex, complicated immigration snarl.

Making headway there will require finally sealing the borders and abandoning the silly notion of a catastrophically expensive wall in favor of adding more Border Patrol and immigration officials. It will require changing our approach to allowing people to work here and eventually achieve citizenship.
Deporting “Dreamers” addresses none of that.

Trump is, as I’ve mentioned before, quite nuts. But this time he may have done the right thing in lighting a fire under Congress by giving it six months to finally, after 16 years, “do something and do it right” for “Dreamers” — and this nation.

If Congress again fails to pass a version of the DREAM Act to protect these young people, it will show there, indeed, is something ironic, immoral and, yes, decidedly cruel afoot in this nation.

That would be sad. And unacceptable.