EDITORIAL: The risks of walking out today for Dreamers

There is an undeniable soft-spot that many have toward Dreamers — those who were brought here illegally as children through no fault of their own and who bring with them much promise to our country’s future, if we allow them to stay.

They were reared in our culture. They attend our schools. Most speak our language. They work beside us and they serve in our military forces. They represent the best and the brightest and they are some of the most driven young people in America today.

That is why it seems so incongruous and a contradiction of their very character for them to hold a nationwide “youth walk out day” today to bring attention to their cause.

Dubbed Operation Dream Act Now, walk outs are planned at various schools and colleges from the East Coast to West Coast to Southwest, including Texas and at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley at 11:40 a.m. at the Bronc statue on the Edinburg campus. The walkouts are for “immigrant youth, students, and people of conscience,” according to a news release sent Wednesday by United We Dream.

“Immigrant youth are already losing their protections from deportation and the need for Congress to act is becoming more urgent every day. But while Congress drags their feet, immigrant youth are rising up to demand action,” it stated.

We understand their frustration but we believe their method is flawed.

This group of young people are revered because they attend higher education institutions and are recognized to be potentially major contributing members of society one day. To walk out of class, to miss tests and assignments to protest their cause, is to undermine what America loves best about them right now.

It’s frustrating that their organizers fail to see this logic. Even more frustrating is that time and again we note the increasing hostility and demanding tone these immigrant activist groups take on.

Acts like these will not endear them to the public but will hasten the public to ostracize them by fulfilling an inaccurate stereotype that Dreamers are nothing more than a bunch of lawbreakers.

We, as an editorial board, have repeatedly supported the Dreamers. We have called on the Trump Administration to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, which the president has announced will be canceled unless Congress can offer a solution. And we have for years called on our lawmakers in Congress to enact meaningful immigration reform that will enable these driven and hard-working youth to stay in our country.

But we do not endorse theatrics or tactics that will lessen the public’s opinion of these people. And walking out of an esteemed institution of learning certainly could do that. While the 1960s-era Civil Rights tactics of civil disobedience was extremely successful, it’s not the right strategy for Dreamers.

More distressing is whether today’s walk outs will prompt younger students in high schools and middle schools to do the same? If so, will they even know why they are taking such a risk in defying school rules or will it just provide an excuse to ditch class and romp around and possibly get into trouble?

Some high schools in Texas are organizing in-school rallies, organizers tell us. This sounds like a much better way to honor the message and educate the masses, yet hopefully will keep children out of trouble.

We encourage parents and families to talk openly about today’s walkouts, as well as the risks to one’s future by participating.

We fully respect our country’s long history of politics of nonviolence and the movements it has inspired. That includes sit-ins and walk-outs that have in peaceful ways helped to penetrate the hearts of those who have refused to listen. We get that. But so many of those participants have been arrested for their actions in the past, and doing so today threatens the Dreamers’ very existence here.

It is a risk they cannot take because since 2014, the past two administrations have pledged to target for deportation those who commit criminal acts.

These students should not jeopardize their futures or their families by risking an arrest that could lead to a possible deportation.

Part of today’s protest is expected to include a massive rally in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill to “demand a clean Dream Act by December,” organizers say. We hope that works. We hope Congress opens its hearts and minds and listens.

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