Congress, it's up to you to protect the Dreamers

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Story highlights

  • Carol Costello: The fate of the Dreamers is in the hands of congressional leaders
  • Congress should protect the Dreamers, who have done nothing wrong, she says

Carol Costello is the host of "Across America With Carol Costello" on HLN. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.

(CNN)Maybe my heart is too full to accept a black-and-white approach to immigration. But when I think of the Dreamers, I cry.

There are nearly 800,000 Dreamers, many of whom were brought into the United States illegally as kids by parents who loved them enough to break the law for the prospect of a better life.
Carol Costello
Many are young people who handed over personal information at the risk of deportation because they trusted the federal government to do the right thing, to understand that they haven't done anything wrong, to protect them.
    House Speaker Paul Ryan, you said that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, should be left to lawmakers to fix. You urged President Donald Trump not to end the program that grants Dreamers protection in America without giving Congress a chance to fix it.
    It looks like you will get your wish. Trump is leaving that decision up to you and the rest of Congress. So now you must find a way to assist young immigrants who, through no fault of their own, grew up as American as you and I did.
    If, Mr. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, you and your fellow lawmakers don't act, your cowardice will instill fear, not only in 800,000 Dreamers but also in their families, friends and supporters.
    On second thought, we're already past the point of instilling fear. The government's inaction has already done that. But just because people are afraid doesn't mean they won't mobilize to fight back.
    Scott Svonkin, a member of the Los Angeles Community College District's board of trustees, is just one of many ready for battle. "I would do everything in my power ... to give (Dreamers) a chance at a better life," he says.
    He is willing to push the limits of the law for the 11,000 Dreamers enrolled in Los Angeles' community college system.
    "I've talked to the captain of our law enforcement agency, and they will not cooperate with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on anything to do with people's immigration status." If someone commits a crime on school grounds, he says, campus police will arrest the offender. If that person is a Dreamer, school officials will make sure he or she is protected from federal authorities.
    "We will scrub our computer systems," Svonkin told me on HLN. "It is not required that we keep information on who is a DACA student and who isn't, so I've asked our chancellor and our IT people to take it out." It's another way, Svonkin says, to protect these students.
    Federal authorities do have the right to make arrests on college campuses, but it would be an ugly spectacle. Do lawmakers really want viral video of ICE agents dragging students from college dormitories?
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    Even Donald Trump is now telling Congress to do its job on DACA.
    So, Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell and congressional Republicans, be leaders. Now is the time to show that Republicans can govern with heart. Are you up for it?