Nonprofit Voice | Georgia and its young immigrants deserve the Dream Act of 2017
With the Trump administration’s announcement this week that DACA, a 2012 program that allows 29,000 young immigrants from Georgia to live and work without fear of deportation, will end in six months without action from Congress, the Latin American Association (LAA) calls on our legislators to enact a permanent solution for undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children.
The LAA supports the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017, which, if passed by Congress, will provide a path to citizenship for these talented young Georgians – including students, nonprofit professionals, educators, religious leaders, and others – who are part of what makes this state great. We urge our federal government to protect them.
Under DACA, eligible young people who were brought to the U.S. as children can get work authorization, a Social Security number, and a Georgia driver’s license after passing thorough background checks and proving that they have established roots in the U.S. Over the past five years, the LAA has played a key role in securing DACA for many young people in Georgia.
We have seen how DACA has positively impacted the lives of those who have received this benefit. And DACA recipients have brought considerable economic gains to Georgia.
Unfortunately, efforts are underway to terminate the program. That termination would cost thousands of young people their jobs, and could cause them to be deported to a country they have never known. It would also create havoc for the many Georgia businesses that have hired them – legally – thanks to the DACA program.
Members of Congress are proposing several bills that will protect those who may lose their status under the program. First introduced in the Senate in 2001, the Dream Act of 2017 is a bipartisan proposal from Senate Republicans and Democrats that would offer a path to permanent residency for eligible young people who have spent most of their lives in our country.
Based on our long history of service to Latino immigrants and our ongoing work with DACA clients, we believe that federal immigration reform legislation like the Dream Act will provide stability and boost the economy. As the President’s actions have made clear, DACA provides young people with opportunities but leaves them in legal limbo. Only enduring reform, like the Dream Act, would create a path to permanent residency and provide young Georgians with needed stability.
Studies also show that this kind of reform would provide substantial economic growth. For example, young Georgians enrolled in DACA or who are eligible for DACA now earn an estimated $800 million annually, much of which they spend in local businesses. Providing these Dreamers with greater stability will increase those wages, increase investment in local business, and help provide talented, hard-working employees for a rapidly-growing state economy. Georgia has invested in its Dreamers by giving them access to public K-12 education, and those Dreamers want to give back to the state and the country. Standing with them is a win-win for these young people and the Georgia economy.
Despite claims by its political opponents, protecting those who have received DACA does not pose a risk to border security. All DACA recipients have already passed a thorough criminal background check, registered with the federal government, undergone biometric screening, and followed the rules set up by the Department of Homeland Security to make sure that DACA recipients do not present a threat to our communities. The government knows who they are and where they live.
The promise of the Dream Act is the opposite of what its opponents claim: It will encourage these young Georgians to become more integrated into the country where they have grown up, providing greater transparency for everyone, and enhancing overall security.
Please contact your congressional representatives and ask them to support the Dream Act of 2017.
Aníbal Torres is executive director of the Latin American Association, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization that empowers Latinos to adapt, integrate and thrive. Founded in 1972, it is the largest and longest-serving agency in Georgia dedicated to serving the needs of Latino families. For more information, visit www.thelaa.org
A version of this article originally appeared on SaportaReport.