TBE#4 - Will Congress Keep Its Promise to the Dreamers?

To Be Equal #4
January 26, 2018
Will Congress Keep Its Promise to the Dreamers?

Marc H. Morial
President and CEO
National Urban League

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for me was a way of coming up for air after having been underwater all my life in a sea of uncertainty. I was able to catch my breath, but I was not yet on a boat back to land. DACA allowed me to work legally, have a Social Security number, open a bank account, and have something as simple as a state ID. Most importantly, DACA provided me with a license to dream.” – Ms. Guzman, a Dreamer writing semi-anonymously in Fortune Magazine.

While the debate rages daily on op-ed pages and on cable news, the nation won’t know until next month whether a Congressional deal to protect Dreamers will be successful.  What we know right now is that protecting Dreamers is the right thing to do.

The Senate deal to keep the government funded through February 8 includes a commitment to vote on a solution that would address the status of young people brought to the United States by their parents when they were children. The Trump Administration in September announced an end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program that protected them from deportation and allowed them to attend school and work.

About 90 percent of Americans believe that those covered under DACA – commonly known as “Dreamers” – should be permitted to remain in the United States - the country that is their home, the only they’ve ever known. Of those who are committed to legal status for Dreamers, many have criticized the Senate deal because they do not believe Senate leadership can be trusted to maintain commitment to a vote. On the other side are those who believe the bargain – which also included a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), ultimately will end with the result all players have declared they want: legal status – and eventual citizenship – for Dreamers.

President Trump reiterated his support for Dreamers this week, saying he wants them to be able to become citizens.  House Speaker Paul Ryan made a highly-publicized promise to a young Dreamer at a nationally-televised town hall that he did not want to see her deported and wanted to help her “get right with the law.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also has said he has sympathy for the Dreamers.

To the extent the general hostility of some Americans toward immigrants is based on wildly inaccurate stereotypes, no group could go further in exploding those false impressions than the Dreamers. Their employment rate exceeds that of the native-born population, with more than 90% of them working. About 65,000 graduate from high school each year, and 10,000 graduate from college. They pay $2 billion in state and local taxes, and are ineligible for safety net program benefits and most government subsidies. About 900 are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

If the Dreamers are deported, the United States will lose more than $280 billion in economic contribution. Plus, the deportations would cost more than $60 billion additional tax dollars.

The United States is at a crossroads. Deportation of Dreamers would be a shameful stain on our history, diminishing our standing in the international community.  Allowing them to remain in limbo, living with the looming disaster of job loss, discharge from the military or expulsion from school, is cruel, and not in keeping with American values.

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Publish Date: 

Friday, January 26, 2018