Getting Congress to Save DACA
Several months have passed since President Donald Trump’s administration announced the withdrawal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, yet the program’s beneficiaries still face uncertainty as the new year approaches.
DACA, an executive action from then-President Barack Obama, shielded a select group of undocumented immigrant youths from deportation, pending specific requirements from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency. The program enabled recipients to seek work permits and attend college. Currently, advocates for immigration say 97 percent of DACA participants are working or in school. According to a national survey conducted by Tom K. Wong of the University of California, San Diego; United We Dream (UWD); the National Immigration Law Center (NILC); and the Center for American Progress, DACA recipients continue to make positive and significant contributions to the economy, including earning higher wages, which translates into higher tax revenue and economic growth that benefits all Americans. In addition, DACA recipients are buying cars, purchasing their first homes, and even creating new businesses. The survey’s results also show that at least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies employ DACA recipients.
On September 5th of this year, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered the withdrawal announcement and said Congress should act through legislation on a DACA replacement. Immigrant rights groups have called on Congress to pass a clean DACA bill, often referred to as The DREAM Act, legislation that addresses the deferred action program and the nearly 800,000 recipients at risk of deportation.
DACA supporters have urged Congress to answer calls for a clean bill and have launched a nationwide effort to bring attention to the significance of passing the Dream Act. A call-in effort to congressional representatives has been promoted through social media by The Rep Project, a San Francisco Bay area nonprofit. It even provides a script that can assist with conveying a constituent’s plea for their representative’s action on DACA:
“Hello, my name is ________ and I am calling as a voting constituent to urge [member of Congress] to pass the DREAM ACT by the end of the year.
The DREAM Act would make it possible for 800,000 young people to thrive in the U.S. by protecting them from deportation. Every young person, family, and community should feel safe and protected in this country regardless of gender, race, class, religion, sexual orientation, ability, or immigration status.
What is [member of Congress] doing to pass the DREAM Act now? My vote is on the line.”
— The Rep Project (@TheRepProject) December 5, 2017
Constituents can locate their representatives by visiting the U.S. House of Representatives website and entering their zip code. They will be able to see who is their state representative and get their contact info.
Some congressional lawmakers have been vocal about a clean DACA bill, while others shared interest to protect recipients through the year-end budget bill, which must be passed by Dec. 22 or risk a government shutdown.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., has said he will not vote on any spending bill after Dec. 31, unless there is a solution for DACA recipients.
“I’ve always voted to fund the government because I think it’s the right thing to do, the responsible thing to do, but I think we need to take a stand,” said Curbelo. “Those of us who want to stand up for these young Americans. And I call them Americans, because even though they’re not documented, they grew up in our country, they speak perfect English, they’re working here, they’re productive, they’ve gone to college, some of them want to serve in our military.
He continued, “It’s time to say, ‘Enough. Congress has been debating this Dreamer issue for 16 years, no action.’ I think now is the time to say, let’s get this done before we go home for the holidays. Let’s give these young people and the country, the gift of making sure they can stay here for the rest of their lives.”
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, has also urged for DACA legislation before 2017 concludes. In a statement, Castro has said, “I urge my Republican colleagues to work with Democrats to pass a permanent legislative solution that will protect the nearly 800,000 DREAMers who live in the United States, including the 120,000 DREAMers who reside in Texas. The passage of the DREAM Act is a priority and must be included in the spending bill that Congress needs to approve by December 22nd. These brave young people cannot wait any longer.”
According to the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank, approximately 915 undocumented immigrant recipients will lose their DACA status every day between March 6, 2018 and March 5, 2020.