Three months have passed since President Trump announced his intention to end the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program. And three months later, we find ourselves no closer to a legislative solution than we were in September.
Enacted in 2012, DACA was created by executive order after Congress failed to pass legislation providing security and stability for Dreamers. DACA provides renewable, temporary legal status to unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16. Applicants must be under the age of 31; attend high school; possess a high school diploma or equivalent or be an honorably discharged veteran; and neither be convicted of any serious crime nor otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
About 1.1 million people were eligible for the program. They’re not individuals like Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the man found not guilty in the July 2015 death of Kate Steinle.
President Trump rightly recognized that executive action was not the appropriate way to address the long-term security of Dreamers. But his decision to terminate DACA, combined with Congress’ failure to act, puts the lives of almost 800,000 hardworking young people at risk.
This is a national tragedy.
Imagine: You were brought to the U.S. as a child, illegally. Your parents both have green cards now. And your younger sisters are U.S. citizens by birth. You spend your days working as an Uber driver to help pay rent and care for your sisters, one of whom is disabled. But now, your work permit is in jeopardy and you’re at risk of deportation after March 5, 2018.
This scenario isn’t hypothetical. It’s real life for Jesús Arreola, a DACA recipient who shared his story with the San Jose Mercury News.
Without a legislative solution for DACA recipients, Arreola will lose his ability to legally work in the U.S. and face deportation. He’s just one of the 223,000 DACA recipients living in California, 15,000 of whom call Kern County home.
In case you’re tempted to think poorly of DACA recipients, consider the following: 95 percent are either working or in school. Six percent have started their own businesses. Fifty-five percent have purchased a vehicle. And 12 percent have purchased their first home.
All this will be for naught if Congress fails to pass a Dream Act. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We need legislation that protects Dreamers from deportation and develops a framework for them to earn citizenship. And it should be paired with increased border security funding. This year.
Recent polls show that nearly 90 percent of Americans support giving Dreamers the chance to stay in the U.S. and earn a pathway to citizenship. And support is bipartisan, including 80 percent of Republicans.
Contrast this level of support with the Republican’s plan for tax reform. Only 51 percent support of Americans support the Republicans' plan, including just 59 percent of their own party.
The Trump administration, House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance released their tax plan almost a month after Trump called for a legislative replacement to DACA. Tax reform is inching closer to becoming law.
But in three months’ time and despite overwhelming popular support, the Dream Act hasn’t gained any momentum.
President Trump and Congressional leaders like our congressman, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, need to make the Dream Act a priority.
This is an historic opportunity for the president and Republican-controlled Congress to pass legislation that addresses the Dreamers’ conundrum and achieves a huge bipartisan win to end the year.
If they don’t, the results would be disastrous. Kicking Dreamers out of the workforce will cost us $460 billion in lost GDP over the next decade. It will cost employers an additional $3.4 billion in unnecessary turnover costs to replace otherwise good employees. Some 30,000 individuals will be removed from the workforce each month over the next two years. That’s more than 1,400 people who will lose their jobs each business day.
It’s time for Members of Congress to decide: are they going to agree with the American people and allow Dreamers the opportunity to earn a path to citizenship by passing permanent legislation? Or, are they going to sit by and watch them be taken from our neighborhoods and sent to countries many don’t even know?
On tax reform, I’ve given up. I’ve resigned myself to the likelihood that my congressman and my party – the party that supposedly doesn’t raise taxes – will increase my taxes and make it more difficult for me to continue to live in the only city I’ve ever called home.
I hope the Dreamers are more fortunate.
Contributing columnist Justin Salters writes weekly on politics, culture and civic engagement; the views expressed are his own. Reach him at Facebook.com/thatjustinsalters, Twitter @justinsalters or firstname.lastname@example.org.