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In 2012, Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved the “Maryland Dream Act.” I was proud to be working for Governor Martin O’Malley, the Maryland General Assembly, and State Board of Education at the time. I had the honor of working alongside 24 district superintendents who were staunch champions for the law. The Maryland Dream Act took measures to protect undocumented students beyond the federal Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) program, granting in-state public tuition rates to certain undocumented youth who attended Maryland high schools for at least three years and meet other conditions. According to the American Immigration Council, states can’t actually legalize a person’s immigration status; however, they can address collateral issues that arise from that person being undocumented. Since then, 17 other states have passed similar laws that help Dreamers afford college. So it seems there are some legislators who believe in rewarding the intelligence, diligence, and aspirations of Dreamers.

As an educator who has witnessed firsthand the hope and joy among Dreamer students and their families, I know that Dreamers are the very definition of the American Dream: They pursue excellence and are proud of their accomplishments. And they love America, the only country they have ever known. As such, Dreamers are integrated in all aspects of society, growing up to be today’s teachers, doctors, engineers, technicians, craftsmen, laborers, and more.

But right now, a majority of Dreamers are children. And rescinding DACA creates an unclear educational pathway for them. According to Pew Research, nearly 4 million undocumented students make up more than 7 percent of all K-12 students in the U.S. Each year, 65,000 undocumented seniors graduate from high school — many of them eager to attend college.

It’s not just Dreamers, however, who are being affected by the current rift in our country. The national fear-mongering that has been eroding America’s foundation impacts us all. Children, regardless of ethnicity, are watching and listening as their friends and neighbors — with whom they encounter at schools, churches, and playgrounds — are being scapegoated as the scourge of society while risking deportation from the country against their will.

And yet, embracing our commonalities and respecting our cultural differences is what makes our country, and our communities, stronger. Diversity of thought, perspective, and lived experiences generates creativity and innovation. Children understand this. Why don’t adults?

In a nation founded by immigrants, rescinding the DACA program seems downright un-American. Congress needs to pass the bipartisan, bicameral Dream Act. Let these 18 states set the example: If Maryland can support and invest in the future for the 10,000 DACA recipients currently residing in the state, then why can’t the nation follow suit? Grant these children and young adults a path to citizenship, so that they can remain an integral fabric of our society—and continue to dream big.

Call your Congressional representative this week and urge them to pass the Dream Act.

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