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Baltimore stands with the Dreamers

Kimberly Eiten reports.

This week, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh joined attorneys general in California, Maine and Minnesota in a lawsuit against the Trump administration, claiming it violated the Constitution and federal laws by rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

This move, along with reassuring and proactive responses to the decision to eliminate DACA from Mayor Catherine Pugh and other local officials, demonstrate that local government will again serve as a balance to defend our families, friends and neighbors against federal policies thought to be unconstitutional, and reinforce core values of fairness and decency cherished by most Americans.

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A week ago Tuesday, the same day that thousands of Maryland children experienced the excitement and optimism that marks the start of a new school year, other young people experienced betrayal and fear resulting from the Trump administration's decision to end DACA. It leaves more than 800,000 young people across the country, known as Dreamers, subject to deportation from the only home most can remember.

The average Dreamer is 26 and was brought to the U.S. at age six, typically with no say in the matter. In response to DACA, they bravely stepped out of the shadows several years ago and declared their undocumented status to the U.S. government in exchange for the opportunity to live without fear, to be able to get a driver's license and apply for a job without the threat of deportation. To be eligible, they must have a clean record and pay $495 every two years. Young immigrants granted DACA status pay income taxes but remain ineligible for government assistance of any kind, including food stamps or federal student loans.

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By eliminating DACA, the Trump administration tramples the trust these young people, including 11,513 of them in Maryland, have placed in America. Because they volunteered to participate in this government program, they're now at risk of being separated from their families (including younger citizen siblings) and their communities and subjected to untold emotional, physical and economic harm.

President Donald Trump punted on protecting immigrant dreamers, and now Congress is poised to abandon them.

This is cruel, heartless and un-American. It contradicts our national values of fairness and due process by senselessly targeting pawns in an unresolved immigration battle. We have a moral imperative to stand with our neighbors when they are threatened. For the good of these individuals and our community, we should not tolerate this violation of decency.

President Donald Trump was expected to announce on Tuesday that he is rolling back protections for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

Mayor Pugh said in a statement that she was "disappointed" in the administration's decision, adding that "Baltimore stands with the thousands of #Dreamers and their families who live and work in our city." Mayors across the country have joined Mayor Pugh in speaking out against the move and in looking for ways to defend their immigrant residents.

In response to Mr. Trump's executive order increasing immigration raids earlier this year, Open Society Institute-Baltimore worked with the Mayor's Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs to launch Safe City Baltimore, a legal defense fund to ensure that Baltimore immigrants with a legal claim to stay in the U.S. receive the representation they need to assert it. Communities around the country have launched similar efforts.

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Our collective challenge now is to follow up on Mayor Pugh's pledge to stand with the Dreamers. Our communities, our government, and all residents must continue to defend DACA and the Dreamers in our communities and in the courts.

L. Tracy Brown is deputy director of Open Society Institute-Baltimore and coordinator of the Safe City Baltimore Legal Defense Fund. Her email is tracy.brown@opensocietyfoundations.org.

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