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Dreamers: Don't let Democrats fool you

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

SAN DIEGO -- So Democrats are now the saviors of the Dreamers? How in the world did that happen?

For those of us who have paid close attention to the immigration debate over the last couple decades, it's surreal watching Democrats in Congress threaten to go to the mattresses for a legislative fix that protects undocumented young people. After all, when Democrats had the chance to get Dreamers out of harm's way by legalizing them, they were asleep at the switch.

It's not politics. Most Democrats don't have anything against Dreamers, many of whom they see as future Democratic voters. Blame Republicans for that, since their approach to immigration is often belligerent, boorish and boneheaded.

It's just personal. Democrats aren't ready to adopt the Dreamers by taking on their cause. As long as restrictionists paint as "amnesty" any accommodation for the Dreamers, you won't see squeamish Democrats snuggling up to that group.

Such cowardice. Many Americans don't have a problem with accommodating young people who -- aside from being undocumented -- have the same American values as their own children. According to a recent Marist poll, 81 percent of Americans support allowing Dreamers to stay in the U.S. legally, either with or without citizenship; only 15 percent think they should be deported. That includes 92 percent of Democrats -- and 67 percent of Republicans.

In fact, although Democrats have promised a government shutdown if Republicans don't protect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) -- the estimated 800,000 undocumented young people who signed up for a temporary reprieve under the last president and had it snatched from them by the current one -- Democratic leaders may be backing off that threat.

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During a recent appearance on CBS News' "Face the Nation," Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois -- who earlier said that he was "not prepared to go home for the holidays until we get our work done," which would include protection for DACA recipients -- signaled that he may be back in the Land of Lincoln in time to trim the tree. Durbin lacks the nerve to do what a shutdown requires -- cutting off, as he said on the show, "the resources and programs that many middle-income families use across America."

Dear Dreamers, you are now -- and have always been -- on your own, and the last group of people you should trust to have your back are Democrats. Actions speak louder than words. And despite what Democrats say about how you belong in the United States, they have not done all they could to keep you here. They've always acted in their own best interest, but rarely in yours.

There are villains in this story, Democrats who went overboard either failing to come to the aid of Dreamers -- or, even worse, helping remove them from the country. The Democratic unholy trinity includes former Rep. and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Let's start in August 2001, when the original "Dream Act" was proposed by Durbin and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. The bill would have given young undocumented immigrants a shot at U.S. citizenship if they joined the military or went to college.

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