By Peter Tateishi
Sacramento Business Journal
California’s Capital region is a unique place to live and work. We are also emblematic of the strength and resilience our country draws from its diversity. Immigrants are a vital part of our communities and economy, representing our business owners, workers, students and entrepreneurs. They represent a significant part of our workforce and are a critical component of our economic vibrancy. It’s incumbent on Congress to pass laws that fairly and consistently address immigration.
Unfortunately, Washington’s inaction on immigration has led to nearly 800,000 of our region’s youth to be at risk of deportation, in spite of going above and beyond to earn their residency here. These are people who were brought to this country as children without documentation, who are now commonly called “Dreamers” because they are seeking to stay here for their own chance at the American Dream. Because Congress did not act to address their residency status, in 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created through a presidential executive order.
DACA offered these young Dreamers a pathway to prosperity as long as they either completed their education or honorably served in our military. Satisfying those requirements provides Dreamers with a legal work permit and a greatly reduced threat of deportation to a country with which they have no connection. Many Dreamers came to America as toddlers; this is the country where they developed the skills and language competencies to contribute to society, and their definition of “home” is here in the United States.
To deport Dreamers now would not only reverse course on our commitment to these young people, but it would also inflict severe economic impacts on our country. The DACA program includes stringent vetting protocols for its participants, including ensuring that Dreamers are pursuing a higher education or gainfully and lawfully employed, have passed security and law enforcement background checks, and have been longtime residents bought to this country as children. So by design, virtually all Dreamers are highly productive and upstanding members of our community.
Of the 800,000 individuals enrolled in the DACA program, about 220,000 reside in California. Here in the Capital region, our local universities and schools collectively enroll thousands of Dreamers. If given the opportunity, these students are ready to positively impact and contribute to our workforce, economy, and communities for the remainder of their lives, if they are not doing so already. Those Dreamers who are already in the workplace are productive, have tax-paying jobs, and represent a critical part of our regional and statewide workforce that our employers simply cannot afford to lose.
That is why the Sacramento Metro Chamber vigorously urges our region’s representatives in Congress to take prompt action to provide a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers. While there is an acute need for comprehensive immigration reform, the notion that a comprehensive solution can be accomplished by Congress with a single action is unlikely. So it is paramount that Congress immediately pass a DACA-specific solution now. Legislation should clearly affirm these Dreamers’ standing to remain in this country and create a specific path and process to citizenship without threat of deportation.
Some of our congressional leaders have introduced legislation, called the Dream Act, to protect Dreamers. We strongly urge all of our region’s representatives in Congress to engage productively in the debate, and develop the consensus necessary to move Dream Act legislation before it’s too late.
Source: Sacramento Business Journal