OPINION: Preserving DACA Must be a Priority for Congress
The House of Representatives and the Senate must pass a permanent legislative solution now. Legislative solutions such as the Dream Act of 2017 or the RAC Act will build upon the success of DACA by legislatively codifying the program, fortifying the economic vitality of our country, and upholding our word to these individuals who dream to be Americans.Across the nation, from California to New York, "Dreamers" and their families are woven into our society. They attend school with our children, shop at the corner grocery store, invest in our communities, and wave to us at church on Sundays. Many of their friends and neighbors are likely unaware these outstanding young people had once been undocumented immigrants.
They are American in every way you can imagine, but their futures are in jeopardy because Washington has failed to fix our broken immigration system.
There is no question our country’s broken immigration system negatively impacts both national and local economies and that failing immigration policies put local businesses, large corporations and entire communities at risk. At the center of the immigration debate is the unresolved status of nearly 800,000 young immigrants, who despite their hard work and contributions to the economy, live in fear and uncertainty of what their futures may hold. Failure to protect these hard-working individuals will darken the economic horizons for all Americans.
Over the years, these young people who were brought to the United States as children through no fault of their own have since become young adults with jobs and families. America is the only home they know, and these individuals want nothing more than to stay and continue to contribute to their communities. However, as a result of Congress’ inability to resolve this situation, these young people now depend on a temporary, makeshift program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, more commonly known as DACA.
By every measure, the DACA program has succeeded. Ninety-five percent of DACA recipients have a job or are enrolled in college. Six percent of DACA recipients have started their own businesses and many have served in the military, defending the nation they love. These individuals pay taxes, go to work, provide for their families, and are actively involved in their communities.
They are often called “Dreamers” because they are pursuing their own American Dream. But, since the program was created in 2012, its legality has been questioned and on Sept. 5, the Trump Administration announced the rescission of DACA, but provided a six-month window for Congress to take legislative action to protect Dreamers.
We owe it not only to these Dreamers but also to our businesses, colleges and entire communities to come together and find a bipartisan solution. For too long, Congress has kicked the can down the road, but now, the clock is ticking, and the consequences of inaction are far too great. Congress must take legislative action today.
Without legislation like the Dream Act or the Recognizing America's Children (RAC) Act, these young people are at risk of being forced out of their jobs and even face deportation. Such action would result in a senseless and costly failure, both economically and morally.
Abruptly removing DACA recipients from the workforce would cost employers an estimated $3.4 billion in unnecessary costs and would significantly slash the purchasing power of immigrant households, which contribute tremendously to our economy. Contributions to Medicare and Social Security would shrink by roughly $25 billion over the next 10 years should Dreamers be removed from the workforce.
Altogether, failure to pass legislation to address DACA recipients would result in a loss of $460 billion to the Gross Domestic Product over the next 10 years. These economic predictions do not encompass the societal consequences of forcibly removing some of our nation’s most promising young people.
The duty of Congress to act immediately is evident. The House of Representatives and the Senate must pass a permanent legislative solution now. Legislative solutions such as the Dream Act of 2017 or the RAC Act will build upon the success of DACA by legislatively codifying the program, fortifying the economic vitality of our country, and upholding our word to these individuals who dream to be Americans.
Rep. David G. Valadao of Hanford serves the 21st Congressional District, which includes much of Kern County.