Opinion

Congress Must Act Now to Protect Dreamers

For nine years, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has allowed recipients to legally work, study and make critical contributions to the U.S. economy and businesses, including ours. And while many of the top U.S. companies and trade associations have continued their calls for action to provide these young immigrants with permanent protections over the years, congressional inaction has left them in judicial and legislative limbo. As we cross the ninth anniversary of the DACA program’s enactment and celebrate last year’s Supreme Court decision to uphold DACA, these are yet again reminders that this temporary program needs a permanent solution, and that businesses leaders like us are eager for reform.

Because despite their contributions to our communities and economy, Dreamers — young immigrants who came to the United States as children with their parents and who have lived the majority of their lives here — have faced years of uncertainty surrounding due to the Trump administration’s attempts to terminate the program. Further, while the Biden administration’s restoration of DACA in full is reassuring and welcomed, the fight for our nation’s Dreamers is far from over.

A federal court ruling ordering DACA to be terminated could come at any moment, as Judge Andrew Hanen, a federal judge in the Southern District of Texas, reviews the legality of the program. Judge Hanen has previously indicated that he would likely terminate DACA. And if this anticipated negative decision comes, it would put DACA recipients and those that rely on them in jeopardy, even leading to another DACA Supreme Court case if Congress fails to act.

The uncertainty Dreamers and their employers, friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and more are facing will not end until a legislative solution — such as the bipartisan Dream Act of 2021, S. 264, re-introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — is passed. In March, the U.S. House of Representatives also acted to provide permanent protections for Dreamers through its passage of the bipartisan American Dream and Promise Act, H.R. 6.

For too long, America’s broken immigration system has been an obstacle for our communities, families, economy and businesses. We must seize these current opportunities to enact long-overdue reform. The Dream Act would provide Dreamers with the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent resident status and eventually citizenship, if they continue to meet certain requirements.

To obtain DACA status, and eventually citizenship under the Dream Act, Dreamers must abide by the laws and regulations of our country, in addition to submitting an application, paying a fee and undergoing a thorough background check, among other criteria. Once approved, DACA recipients earn the ability to live, work and study in the United States.

Dreamers’ contributions and commitment to our companies, their families and communities are critical to our nation’s strength and economy, and must be preserved. The nearly 700,000 DACA beneficiaries in the United States contribute $42 billion to the U.S. economy annually and billions in annual local, state and federal taxes. Continued delay or inaction will cause significant negative economic and social impacts to businesses and hundreds of thousands of deserving young people across the country.

Beyond the statistics, DACA recipients are exceptional community and workforce members. For example, they’re contributing as essential workers, some have been awarded Rhodes scholarships and over 70 percent of the Top 25 Fortune 500 companies employ DACA recipients, just to name a few accomplishments. And dozens of economists have echoed their importance, noting the economic benefits a Dreamer solution would provide.

Not only are Dreamers bolstering our workforce, economy and communities at a time when we need it most, but providing Dreamers with a permanent legislative solution has broad, bipartisan support both in Congress and across the country, making it an even easier choice. Polling shows that the majority of Americans – over 70 percent – on both sides of the aisle support a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. Further, the majority of Americans, including both Democrats and Republicans, support passage of the Dream Act.

Years of uncertainty have culminated in the immense opportunity Congress is now presented with to finally provide a legislation solution for Dreamers through the Dream Act. Nine years after DACA’s enactment and nearly two decades after the Dream Act’s initial introduction, its passage would bring benefits and certainty to Dreamers and all those that rely on them. Congress must act now – Americans and our businesses and communities need an urgent solution.

 

Linda Moore is the president and CEO of Technet. David Kenny is the CEO of Nielsen. Dick Burke is the CEO of Envoy Global.

Morning Consult welcomes op-ed submissions on policy, politics and business strategy in our coverage areas. Updated submission guidelines can be found here.

Morning Consult