As we move toward the possibility of another government shutdown, you’ve probably heard a great deal about a program known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). DACA was instituted in 2012, and allowed young undocumented immigrants – commonly known as Dreamers – to get work permits and driver’s licenses without fear of deportation. President Trump ended DACA in September 2017, and set a March 5 deadline for Congress to come up with a legislative equivalent for the program.
Apart from the political back-and-forth in Washington, it is important to establish just who the Dreamers are. Data from a survey conducted by the Center for American Progress revealed that the average DACA recipient has lived in this country for about 20 years. Their average age at arrival was six-and-a-half. In other words, the large majority of Dreamers did not know they were doing anything wrong when they traveled to the United States.
There are more than 27,000 DACA recipients in North Carolina, and even more who are eligible for the program but have not yet enrolled. Though they’ve gone to school, worked, and served in our military, Dreamers face the threat of deportation if Congress cannot quickly come to a compromise on DACA.
While the program itself may end on March 5, that does not mean Congress has until then to pass legislation. If a bill is passed, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will need time to implement protections for Dreamers before they fall out of status. Every day that Congress waits and delays this decision makes it harder for the Administration to implement a plan in time for thousands of Dreamers to maintain their jobs.
Allowing Dreamers to remain in the United States and keep working is extremely important for our economy. Deporting these individuals would reduce our state and local tax revenues by nearly $64 million and shrink our economy by nearly $1.2 billion over the next decade. If DACA dissolves without Congress acting first, businesses nationwide will pay about $6.3 billion over the next two years in unnecessary turnover costs to recruit and train new employees. We cannot afford this kind of upheaval in our economy.
Americans understand that the hopes of Dreamers, who have grown up in communities and neighborhoods across the nation, reflect the American Dream itself. With a legislative compromise for Dreamers, America stands to gain not only hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues, but community leaders, teachers, doctors, and hardworking societal contributors. According to Fox News, nearly 90 percent of Americans — including 80 percent of Republicans — want Congress to pass legislation that creates an earned pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.
It is time for Congress to follow the lead of their constituents, who support DACA and Dreamers on both sides of the political spectrum. And there is evidence of bipartisan support for a DACA fix in both the House and the Senate – a bill in the oft-polarized House has 27 Democratic and 26 Republican co-sponsors. In the Senate we’ve seen several iterations of bipartisan bills. The leadership in both the House and Senate should take this bipartisan support seriously and bring these bills to a vote.
I am not a DACA recipient, but my parents are immigrants who’ve worked hard to ensure that I had every opportunity growing up in the United States. The parents of DACA recipients – who brought their kids to the US years ago – were similarly motivated. Now those young people have grown up to be hardworking contributors to our communities and economy.
I am proud of Governor Cooper and Attorney General Stein, who have supported the plight of Dreamers in our state. Governor Cooper recently joined a bipartisan group of governors to say to Congress, “we encourage you to come together quickly to shape a bipartisan solution that allows our Dreamers to remain in the United States and continue their constructive contributions to our society.” I could not agree more.
Lorenzo Pedro lives in Morganton and is a 2016 graduate of UNCG. He serves as Director of Communications for the NC Democratic Party’s 11th Congressional District and was recently named by LongLeafPolitics.com as one of the top 54 young political stars in NC.