Guest Opinion: Dreamers deserve a path forward
September 14, 2018
One year ago this week, President Donald Trump instructed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to announce the administration's plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Attorney General Sessions carried out these orders (he's opposed DACA from its start in 2012 as senator). No friend of Dreamers, he stood in front of TV cameras and told the American people the program would come to an end on March 5, 2018.
On the same day of Sessions' announcement, President Trump said he wanted Congress to act in order to replace DACA with a lasting program that would offer Dreamers the chance to attain a permanent place in American society. Answering the president, House and Senate lawmakers from both parties pledged to get to work; to step in and make things right.
Congress didn't step in; the U.S. courts did. As of last Friday, four federal district courts have ruled that the administration can't just end DACA. It would be too harmful.
Indeed, it would.
Let's start with our K-12 schools, where students across Colorado are starting a new year. Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg has said that ending DACA would be "catastrophic" for his school system. He's hired many young people who are enrolled in DACA to serve in his classrooms. He said, "The DACA program has helped bring wonderfully talented and critically needed teachers to our classrooms and has provided peace of mind and legal status to thousands of immigrant children and families who make our city and our schools great."
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It's estimated that Colorado needs about 3,000 more teachers than it has currently. Our primary and secondary school students need our DACA recipients.
Last term, Colorado State University (CSU) President Dr. Tony Frank estimated ending DACA would impact about 200 students on CSU campuses. I don't know what those kids are studying, but some are probably engineering students, others likely are pursuing degrees in business or medicine. They want to stay in this country and contribute to our communities, but Congress must allow them to.
More than 17,000 DACA recipients call Colorado home and, according to the U.S. House Small Business Committee, more than 15,000 of those young people are currently employed. If we lose them, it will cost the state economy more than $850 million in lost output each year.
With their jobs, DACA recipients also provide important revenue to our city and state governments. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, these young people pay nearly $31.5 million in local and state tax each year. That doesn't include what they contribute to the federal government.
While the four federal judges have ruled that DACA must stay in effect, these rulings are not enough. It is the role of Congress, not the courts to pass legislation that protects not only Dreamers, but communities and business owners. The rulings do not guarantee Dreamers a permanent place in our communities, or even a place next year.
It's very likely that the Trump administration will appeal these rulings in an attempt to reverse them. The Supreme Court could agree, or there could be an entirely new challenge to the program. If the administration and DACA opponents are successful, these young people will lose their jobs and their ability to study. They'll even become eligible for deportation.
Or, this can be avoided entirely if Congress does its job.
The only people who can give DACA recipients the assurances they need are our representatives in Congress. Only the House and Senate can pass laws that come up with a pragmatic, bipartisan solution to ensure Dreamers can continue to contribute to local communities and our state's economic vitality.
They must do that for the Dreamers. Now.
Jeff Wasden is president of the Colorado Business Roundtable.