Time is running out for Congress to pass a legislative fix to protect “Dreamers” — immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. In September, the Trump administration announced the coming end of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that granted temporary deportation relief and work permits to young immigrants under specific and narrow conditions. The announcement has disrupted the lives of nearly 800,000 DACA recipients, who now face the prospect of losing everything they have worked hard for. For the sake of sanity, South Carolina’s representatives in Washington should push Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that lets Dreamers stay.
Dreamers are not just any immigrants. In order to be eligible for DACA, applicants must be enlisted in the military, enrolled in school, have received a high school diploma, or have been honorably discharged. Moreover, they must pass a comprehensive background check from the Department of Homeland Security. In short, they are model Americans trying to make a living in what is for many the only country they know.
If Congress fails to pass the new legislation, we could witness a mass deportation that will have a grave effect on our society and economy. America will lose hard workers like Reyna Rosales, a DACA recipient and a business owner, student, and a mother of two American children. She came to San Antonio at the age of 8, unaware of her undocumented status, and when she found out that she was ineligible for college financial aid due to her status, she dropped out of high school in order to earn a living for her family.
Upon hearing about DACA years later, she studied the requirements, completed her GED and then applied for the act. Because of DACA, she is working toward her degree in social work while running a restaurant. Rosales is not draining public resources and is not being an unproductive citizen, as many immigration opponents would suggest. She boosts the economy by tapping into her entrepreneurial spirit and providing jobs to people through her restaurant. Congress must not let Dreamers like Rosales down.
According to a study conducted by the University of Southern California and the Center for American Progress, there are 9,100 DACA recipients in South Carolina, equating to a gross domestic product contribution of $262.7 million dollars each year. The numbers speak for themselves.
South Carolina’s representatives in Washington would be acting against our state’s self-interest by condoning the deportation of thousands of hardworking residents.
It comes as no surprise, then, that activists across the state have the backs of South Carolina’s Dreamers. Earlier this month, a group rallied in front of Sen. Tim Scott’s office in support of a legislative solution for Dreamers. Julie Edwards, an organizer for Indivisible Midlands, told WSAV News 3 that, “sending folks back to the countries they were in for a very short time, a lot of them don’t speak the language of their home country. … Sending them back would create a humanitarian crisis.”
One such solution, the SUCCEED Act, would increase GDP by $81 billion, increase net federal revenue by $22 billion, and create 117,000 new jobs over the next 10 years, according to a new study by the Niskanen Center.
South Carolinians should urge Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott to support a legislative solution that provides a clear path toward legal status and remedies our broken immigration system.
If Congress fails to pass the new bill, 800,000 Dreamers will be sent to a country with which they’re not familiar, resulting in a negative economic impact of $400 billion over 10 years. Immigrants are the backbone of America, and we must do what is right for those who have earned their place in our country.
Natalie Bao Tram Le is a Young Voices advocate and a College of Charleston alumna. Follow her on Twitter at @NatalieBaoTramL.