The Dream Act would allow immigrant students a path to citizenship. Known as “dreamers,” these people grew up in the United States and have lived and built their lives here since they were children. They are American in every way except for their immigration status.

Under the current law, they live in fear of deportation and cannot fully realize their potential to the communities, cities, and nation they call home.

This week, former Department of Homeland Security Secretaries Thomas Ridge, Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano and Jeh Charles Johnson sent a letter to House and Senate leadership calling on them to pass legislation to protect dreamers. They said “Congress needs to pass a bill by January 19 to provide enough time for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to process applications before tens of thousands of DACA recipients are negatively impacted by the loss of their work authorization or removal from the United States.”

Congress must pass legislation to protect those young people from deportation and allow them to continue contributing to society. The Dream Act would allow those young people to become permanent residents and eventually gain their American citizenship.

That is especially critical in Maine, which faces an enormous work-force crisis and is greatly in need of diversifying the work force. In 2014, almost one in five Mainers was already older than the age of 65. The state of Maine continues to struggle in attracting large numbers of new residents or retaining its young people.

Bruce Bickford, Auburn

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