Congress must pass DREAM Act to provide pathway to citizenship

We’re in a global contest to attract and retain talent to remain competitive. To that end, providing permanent legal status to “Dreamers” makes sound economic sense.

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Immigration advocates rally to urge Congress to pass permanent protections for DACA recipients and create a pathway to citizenship, near the U.S. Capitol June 15, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Immigration advocates rally to urge Congress to pass permanent protections for DACA recipients and create a pathway to citizenship near the U.S. Capitol on June 15.

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Recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are at a crossroads. As this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Obama Administration’s DACA program — which shields many immigrants from deportation and allows them to work in the United States lawfully — the executive order is under attack.

On July 6, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana will hear Texas’ challenge to DACA in a case many believe will go to the U.S. Supreme Court. There are 825,000 young people living in limbo with neither permanent legal status to live in the United States nor a pathway to earned citizenship.

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During the 10th anniversary of DACA this month, the American Business Immigration Coalition will lead a delegation of hundreds of CEOs, employers, university presidents, and “Dreamers” to Washington, D.C. urging lawmakers to support a bipartisan DREAM Act.

“Dreamers” have significantly contributed to our national economy and public coffers and strengthened our social fabric. Many Fortune 500 companies employ “Dreamers,” including Apple, Amazon, General Motors, Home Depot, Walmart, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. “Dreamers” have leadership positions at every rank at social impact organizations, including The Resurrection Project.

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Thousands of DACA recipients work tirelessly to keep essential services in our economy open, including food supply chains, health care services and schools. Our nation has faced a long-standing and growing teacher shortage that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated. Today, 20,000 educators are DACA recipients working with students in classrooms across the country.

Households with DACA recipients are deeply embedded in our society and economy, as research by the Center for American Progress shows. More than 300,000 children born in the United States have a least one DACA parent and more than 1.3 million people live with a DACA recipient. In our economy, “Dreamers” wield $25.3 billion in spending power and pay $2.5 billion in rent. An estimated 68,000 homeowners are “Dreamers” and make $760 million in mortgage payments. They pay more than $6 billion in federal taxes and over $3 billion in state and local taxes annually.

In Illinois, DACA recipients make annual mortgage payments of over $53 million and pay over $110 million in rent. More importantly, DACA recipients hold $1.3 billion in spending power in the state. Last year, DACA recipients in Illinois paid $326.2 million in federal taxes and $217 million in local and state taxes.

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As a nation, we’re in a global contest to attract and retain talent to remain competitive. To that end, providing permanent legal status to “Dreamers” makes sound economic sense. Our policies must allow us to compete for the workers that strengthen our economy and reward them accordingly. We also need to retain the young talent that already exists here.

We cannot afford to keep holding DACA recipients in limbo. As the pandemic wanes, there is a tight labor market and growing inflationary pressures, and more experts are pointing to a possible recession. Congress needs a permanent solution that includes earned citizenship for all DACA eligible individuals and “Dreamers.” No more hemming and hawing. We don’t have the time waste. We need action now.

Raul I. Raymundois a co-chair of the American Business Immigration Coalition and is CEO and co-founder of The Resurrection Project.

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