Home Opinion In My Opinion On DACA, the Dream Act and immigration: statement by Rep. Lee Zeldin

On DACA, the Dream Act and immigration: statement by Rep. Lee Zeldin

File photo: Denise Civiletti

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy was started by the Obama administration in June 2012, allowing illegal immigrants who entered our country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.

If the Obama administration wanted to implement the DACA program, it should have made the case to Congress and try to pass its proposal into law. The administration absolutely did not have the authority to write its own ‘laws’. If the proposal did not have the support to pass then it should not go into effect. That is how our process is designed and must be respected.

I support legal immigration. I oppose illegal immigration. If you want to come to America and pursue the American dream, follow the rules. If you commit a crime and are deported, don’t come back. Every nation’s backbone is its rule of law. It is great to pursue the American dream and to consider yourself a ‘dreamer’ and everyone in the United States legally should consider themselves ‘dreamers’, but you have to follow our laws. Period. We should not reward or excuse criminal behavior.

Many find the situation related to minors illegally in our country to be the most challenging. Many of these children involuntarily came to our country very young, have been here for a long time, go through our education system, love our country and are looking to stay here and greatly contribute to our economy and nation’s future. What I struggle with the most is how you can possibly allow someone illegally in our country to be given preference over someone who is not in our country solely, because that individual abroad is following the rules and respecting our laws and as a result they are not yet here.

I am completely open to a debate in Congress and among the American people on how to strengthen immigration laws in our country. The system is flawed as evidenced by the number of people currently in our country illegally as well as the preferences, protections and benefits awarded to people who are here illegally. My priority will always unapologetically remain with fighting for the people following the laws, rather than the ones breaking them. We can debate with each other who has our priorities set better until we are blue in the face, but that is where my heart, energy and commitment remains.

As far as how to tackle this massive issue, when you have a leak, are you someone who turns off the faucet first or cleans up the leak first? I’m someone who believes that you should turn off the faucet first. We absolutely should attempt to completely resolve the challenges associated with all of the many millions of Americans who are in our country illegally, but not first without ensuring that the challenge doesn’t multiply despite anyone’s best of intentions to do what in their heart they truly believe is right. I can think of various circumstances where deportation won’t be the solution, but a blanket rewarding and incentivizing of bad behavior is going to lead to even more abuse of our immigration system by others.

We must secure the entry process into our country and strengthen interior enforcement. We should pursue common ground on what at all to do with people who are already in our country illegally, but proposals that recklessly actually increase the amount of people in our country illegally and incentivize disrespecting and abusing our laws on the books should not be supported. Let’s pursue policies that incentivize respecting and honoring our laws on the books, not the other way around. Let’s pursue solutions that better secure our entry process and strengthen interior enforcement so that agreements on what to do with people in our country illegally truly results responsibly in less people in our country illegally over time and not more.

I am very much willing to work with any of my colleagues on either side of the aisle on this issue and others to find common ground however possible. I would also strongly encourage anyone on the opposite side of this debate to keep to themselves the character assassinations, name calling, partisan threats and over the top sound bite spin, because if you truly want to work out an agreement for progress, that is absolutely not at all how to get there. Working together productively and substantively, I am hugely confident that long overdue progress can absolutely be achieved at least in part to move the needle more in the right direction.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) represents New York’s First Congressional District.