More than 15 years ago, my colleague Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the original DREAM Act, legislation to allow undocumented immigrants brought here as children to come out of the shadows by putting them in a tough but fair pathway to citizenship. The bill received strong bipartisan support in the Senate, but was killed by Republicans who chose partisan politics over hardworking families, and our national interest.
After several battles to pass this commonsense legislation failed, President Obama had no choice but to act within his authority to temporarily protect these young men and women, many of whom know no other country as home. In 2012, President Obama announced his Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect individuals who came to our country as children from deportation. DACA allows them to come out of the shadows and fully contribute to their communities. Since then, DACA has been extremely successful. More than 12,000 DREAMers in Nevada and over 790,000 across the country have benefited from DACA. Many of them are our newest engineers, athletes, small business owners, teachers and community activists, and they make our communities better and our economy stronger.
I have been fortunate enough to spend time with several of Nevada’s DREAMers. I have listened to their stories. I have learned about their dreams and accomplishments, but also about the challenges they face every day because of their status. They are outstanding young men and women who love our country and who are Americans in all but paper. They are brave and they do not give up. That is why I made them a promise: that I would do everything in my power to protect them from mean-spirited attacks and keep their families together. That is why I am fighting against attempts that would force DREAMers back into the shadows and separate hardworking families. These efforts stand diametrically opposed to our values as Americans.
There is no question that our country’s immigration system is broken. Yet it is time to stop rehashing failed attempts of the past; it is time to move forward. We know that providing DREAMers the opportunity to achieve the American Dream – the same opportunity that was given to my grandfather when he emigrated from Mexico – helps grow our economy and strengthens our communities. However, now more than ever DACA is under grave threat. DREAMers are being targeted by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and nine other states, who are threatening to sue if the President does not rescind DACA. If this threat is successful it would do away with the stability and opportunity DREAMers have received these last five years.
Sending nearly 800,000 DACA beneficiaries back to the shadows and to face deportation would cause the U.S. GDP to lose at least $433 billion over 10 years. If DREAMers in Nevada who are active members of the workforce were to be deported, the state’s economy would lose $585 million every year. This will hurt our small businesses, our children, and our seniors, who will be affected by fewer funds available for public services like public education, Medicare, and Social Security.
At this time of great uncertainty and increased deportations the least we can do is to put aside partisan politics and protect all DREAMers. Children should not have to live in fear of deportation or think that they do not have a future in this country. Their futures are in our hands and America’s future will greatly benefit from a strong and prosperous immigrant community.
Congress must build on the success of DACA and grant immigrants brought to this country as children, specifically those who do not pose a threat to our national security or public safety, the opportunity to come out of the shadows and be put on a pathway to citizenship. It is time to give them the peace of mind they need and deserve.
I am encouraged to hear that some of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are trying to do the right thing and are working together to protect DREAMers from being deported – many to countries they do not even know. I look forward to working with them. My immediate priority is to protect DREAMers and their families from deportation, and protect other long-term residents like those with Temporary Protected Status, while continuing the fight to pass comprehensive immigration reform and put hardworking families on a pathway to citizenship, while strengthening our national security.
It is long overdue that we do what is best for our country’s social and economic fabric and keep our young children and hardworking families together. Our nation is a country of immigrants and it is essential that we recognize our values and history, and protect this tradition to ensure a strong future.
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