For the past two decades, immigration policy has roiled American politics, generating far more passion than action.

Getting members from both parties to agree on solutions has been an impossible task under both Republican and Democratic presidents. Nowhere has that failure been more lamentable than in the case of the “Dreamers.” Will this finally be the year these blameless individuals gain protection?

The “Dreamers” are immigrants who were brought here by their parents as children. They have been educated in America, grown up in America and come to regard themselves as Americans. Some reached maturity unaware they were noncitizens — and thus subject to deportation.

President George W. Bush wanted to grant them legal status. President Barack Obama tried to get Congress to do it, and finally used his executive powers to shield them from removal. President Donald Trump even promised to help this group before deciding to scrap Obama’s program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — only to see courts keep it operating while legal challenges played out. Last year, the Supreme Court preserved it by ruling that the Trump administration had violated federal law in dismantling DACA.

So the fate of these immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission remains in limbo. On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the secretary of Homeland Security to “take all actions he deems appropriate, consistent with applicable law, to preserve and fortify DACA.”

But there is no guarantee that the courts will ultimately uphold the president’s unilateral authority to protect this group. The best option is for Congress to approve legislation granting the “Dreamers” legal status and the opportunity to earn citizenship.

Biden has produced a package of immigration measures that includes this reform. But a comprehensive plan is unlikely to win passage.

Recently, however, the House was expected to vote separately on The Dream and Promise Act, which would shield the “Dreamers,” as well as foreigners who have been under Temporary Protected Status because of natural disasters, wars and other perils. The case for this measure is strong and persuasive. Expelling people who knowingly violated our laws to come to the United States is defensible, but deporting people who never had a choice is not.

Most of the DACA recipients are contributing members of society, with 91% of them employed in 2019. The bill would cover those immigrants who arrived as children, have remained here continuously and have gotten a high school diploma or a GED or are pursuing one. This measure would not be an unconditional amnesty for all. Those who have committed felonies, violent misdemeanors or three or more misdemeanors would not qualify. Those who get permanent resident status would have to wait five years to apply for citizenship.

Making the sale to the public is not a problem. A Pew Research Center poll last year found that 74% of Americans support granting legal status to the “Dreamers” — including 91% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans.

The first DREAM Act was introduced in 2001, by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. An entire generation of kids who were brought here have grown up plagued by uncertainty about whether they will be allowed to remain in the country that has been their home.

Congress has repeatedly failed to do the fair, wise thing by granting them permanent protection. It should not miss another opportunity.

— Chicago Tribune