The Time to Pass the DREAM Act Is Now
Five years ago, I received news that brought both my mother and father to tears. I learned that I had been accepted into the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The DACA program changed my life significantly. It enabled me to support myself and to study finance at Dalton State College; it allowed me to get my first driver’s license; and it helped negate my fear that I would be deported to a country that I do not know.
On Thursday, October 5th, the Department of Homeland Security will no longer accept Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program renewal applications. This means that once my current DACA status expires, I will once again be in legal limbo.
I was brought to the United States as an infant and raised in Dalton, Georgia — not far from Dalton State. I speak with a southern accent, and I know the United States as my only home. The idea that I could once again find myself without any sort of legal status is unthinkable to me. That’s why this week, I’m visiting Washington, D.C., to speak to my elected officials about passing a permanent legislative solution for “Dreamers” like me.
The time is now for Congress to act on passing a legislative solution for DACA recipients. Despite President Trump’s positive statements about Dreamers — a group of people for which he has “great love” — and despite Vice President Pence’s promise that the president would deal with the issue with a “big heart,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced the administration’s intention to end the DACA program early next year.
Shortly after Sessions made the announcement, the president urged lawmakers to act on DACA. It is my sincere hope that they will. The DREAM Act, which enjoys bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House, would allow hardworking young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors to apply for legal status and eventual citizenship if they meet certain educational or military requirements, successfully pass a background check, and remain in good legal standing.
Ensuring that Dreamers can stay in the United States permanently makes economic sense. Removing 800,000 people from the workforce would cost $460 billion in lost GDP over a decade. It would cost employers $3.4 billion in unnecessary turnover costs. And contributions to Medicare and Social Security would be cut by $24.6 billion over a decade. That is why more than 800 business leaders from across the nation penned a letter to leaders in Congress urging them to pass the DREAM Act.
Polls also show Americans support our cause. An ABC News/Washington Post survey released in September showed that almost nine in 10 respondents support DACA. A Fox News poll also released in September showed that 83 percent of Americans support pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and that 62 percent say it is extremely or very important for Congress pass immigration law that will address the Dreamers. That is higher than the percentage of voters polled by Fox News who think this is more important than passing new health care (58 percent) or tax reform legislation (52 percent).
Prominent conservatives agree. Charles Krauthammer has said that a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers is “exactly logical.” Rush Limbaugh observed that “nobody is going to win anything by deporting a bunch of kids.” And according to Erick Erickson, protecting Dreamers is the “right thing to do.”
Republicans and Democrats alike agree that it is imperative for Congress to pass legislation to protect Dreamers. I hope that our elected officials will be spurred to act by their meeting with more than 120 Dreamers in Washington D.C. this week.
Congress has the opportunity to find a permanent solution for thousands of hardworking young adults who have known the United States as their only home, and who work hard to contribute to their local communities, states, and to the nation as a whole. The time for action is now.
Jaime Rangel, a Dreamer, is a current Dalton State University student who is working towards a career in politics and public policy. A graduate of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials Institute for Leadership program, Jaime acts as a Hispanic liaison to Dalton city officials and previously interned with Donnelly McDonald LLC in Atlanta.