January is the last chance for Congress to protect Dreamers

Posted on May 17, 2018 by - Uncategorized

By Pat Fong Kushida
We are closer than ever to passing legislation to permanently protect the workers and students enrolled in DACA. But January is the last chance for Congress to take action before tens of thousands of Dreamers lose their ability to live in the United States and continue working. This is why I urge California’s representatives in Congress to work to pass legislation this month before it is too late.

The repeal of DACA has created an urgent crisis, not only for the 230,000 Dreamers in California but also for our economy, including California’s more than 600,000 Asian Pacific Islander (API)-owned businesses that know Dreamers as employees, customers, and community members. Removing these individuals from their homes and the only country they know would be an inexcusable moral failure. This move would impact far more than California’s Dreamers – immigration policy affects all of us, and the subsequent hit to the economy would hurt U.S.-born employers and workers too.


Roughly 90 percent of Dreamers are currently employed and six percent have launched their own businesses. Removing these workers – and, in some cases, the U.S.-born workers they employ – from our economy would cost an estimated $460 billion GDP loss over the next decade. Employers would be hit with $3.4 billion in unnecessary turnover costs and contributions to Medicare and Social Security would fall by roughly $25 billion.


Businesses and communities are already feeling the effect. Since the repeal of DACA in September, almost 14,000 Dreamers have already lost their work permits. Until Congress passes a permanent legislative solution, 122 more will continue to fall out of status every single day. Even worse, the number of people impacted will go up dramatically after March 5th, which is Congress’ deadline to act.


But waiting until March 5th is not a viable option. After Congress passes a legislative solution, it will take months for the Department of Homeland Security to establish and implement a system for Dreamers to apply for residency and work permits, and to adjudicate those applications. For context, when DACA was established in 2012, it took almost three months before the first applications were approved. Even if it only takes half of that time for U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services to establish this process, Congress would need to pass a bill by January 19th to provide enough time for agencies to process applications before thousands of DACA recipients are cut out of the economy and workers stop showing up for work.


Also before Congress this month is a year-long spending bill, which includes funds for Homeland Security and ICE. A vote for this spending bill without protections for Dreamers is a vote to fund the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who fall out of status in the year ahead. So the timing could not be more urgent. Any Member of Congress who claims to stand with Dreamers cannot vote for a spending bill that will fund their detention and deportation, unless they have helped to pass a permanent legislative solution first.


For years, Congress has said they stand with Dreamers, but time and again, legislation to protect them has fallen short of the finish line. California’s businesses are saying enough is enough. Act now to protect our Dreamers before it is too late.


Pat Fong Kushida is president and CEO of the California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce.