Fighting for the American Dream

On Tuesday morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions took to the podium to announce the end of an Obama-era program that granted 800,000 hard-working young people the ability to live, study and work in this country legally. At the same time, I was at Delaware State University, listening to the stories of nine promising young students — students whose futures became uncertain in an instant.

These young men and women, known as “Dreamers,” were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents, and they know no other home than the United States. President Obama’s program acknowledged the value of these upstanding young people, and it recognized our principles as a country founded by immigrants by allowing them to come out of the shadows and fully contribute to their communities and our economy. They were able to do so without fear of deportation or detention, as long as they followed the rules.

I can say with confidence that the Dreamers I spoke with on Tuesday are some of the most impressive young people I’ve ever met. Kevin Gutierrez, a freshman at Del State this year who was born in El Salvador, told me that growing up he would put his hand over his heart and say the Pledge of Allegiance at school every day, feeling the same sense of respect and pride as his fellow classmates, because this country is all he has known. He worked hard at school in his home state of Georgia to get a scholarship to Delaware State University, and he’s excited to make a mark here as a Mass Communications major. 

I also spoke with Maria Fernanda Lima, who is starting her sophomore year at Del State and is studying nursing with hopes to become a neonatal nurse practitioner. Maria, who was born in Brazil, said every Dreamer she knows is motivated to do well, focus on their studies, contribute to the economy and their community, and she doesn’t know why anyone would want to take that away.

With millions of unfilled jobs in the U.S., we need these promising young students and workers more than ever. President Trump’s decision to turn his back on Dreamers like Kevin and Maria is a short-sighted, self-inflicted wound on our communities and our economy. During my visit, Del State President Harry Williams re-stated his commitment to Dreamers on campus who face uncertainty. I am thankful that Del State and other schools in Delaware stand behind these incredible young men and women—but their support alone is not enough. Congress has a responsibility to act to ensure Dreamers can remain in the U.S.

It’s clear that many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle know that President Trump’s decision was the wrong one, and it’s up to us to do right by these young people. On Wednesday, I stood on the Senate floor and shared the stories of these young Dreamers, and I won’t stop speaking out on their behalf. I will keep urging Congressional leadership to bring the DREAM Act to the House and Senate floors for a vote to finally ensure that Dreamers can live, work and strive for the American dream in peace.