Latino Community Leaders send letter to Senate, calling to include DACA protections in legislation
The letter sent to Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asks that they create a bipartisan solution for DACA by the year’s end.
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On Wednesday, Dec. 14, 66 Latino community leaders representing several different national and local organizations, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling on the U.S. Senate to come together and devise a bipartisan solution that includes permanent protections for Dreamers — DACA recipients — before year’s end.
“Resolution of this issue is of critical importance to America’s Hispanic community, as the futures of many of our families and community members hang on by the thinnest of judicial threads. Senate Republicans and Democrats now have an opportunity to address this issue once and for all during the so-called Lame Duck session of the 117th Congress. It may well be now or never for Dreamers,” the letter reads.
The groups which include representatives from Latino Victory Project, Voto Latino, Mi Familia Vota, Hispanic Federation, NALEO Education Fund, Somos Votanes, NextGen America, and others, reiterated the urgency of the issue and importance of time to give Dreamers the aforementioned protections..
The Obama Administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, since its implementation back in 2012, has faced many legal challenges and court interferences — especially in the last few years — that have endangered the future of the program, and of the Dreamers themselves.
“In recent months, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals declared the original 2012 DACA policy unlawful, which has set the stage for this incredibly successful and popular program to be struck down by the Supreme Court,” they wrote.
The signers, which include Sergio Gonzales, executive director of the Immigration Hub, Sonia Perez, interim president and CEO of UnidosUS, Greisa Martínez of United We Dream, Latino Victory Project CEO Nathalie Rayes, Héctor Sánchez Barba of Mi Familia Vota, and many others, added that the letter more than anything, is coming from a place of worry from the ever-growing Latino community and the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients.
“One thing is crystal clear: Hispanic voters support permanent protections for Dreamers and other undocumented communities. Seventy eight percent of Latino voters in battleground states say that Congress should act to protect Dreamers if a federal court overturns the DACA program,” they wrote.
On top of the emotional sentiments laid out in the letter, the many Latino leaders made sure to point out or reiterate to some of the opposition of the economic positives of having the DACA program in place, arguing it drives economic growth as many recipients are workers, business owners, and now homeowners — in other words, major contributor to the American economy.
“Indeed, DACA holders are powerful engines of economic growth, contributing an estimated $9.5 billion annually in local, state, and federal taxes and running an estimated 45,000 businesses. When the last DACA recipient’s work permit expires, the U.S. will have lost more than 500,000 jobs, and the U.S. economy will lose as much as $11.7 billion annually — or roughly $1 billion monthly — in wages from previously employed DACA recipients,” they wrote.
Even with those truths, many members of Congress in both chambers have still struggled to come up with a permanent solution to the issue of extending DACA protections as we near the end of the year with the program even more in limbo than before.
“While eight in 10 Latinos are U.S. Citizens: fully half of Hispanics, including battleground voters, say they personally know someone who is undocumented,” the writers say. “When it comes to DACA, the average DACA recipient has lived in the U.S. for well over 20 years establishing deep ties to America including as parents to an estimated 300,000 U.S.-born children whose futures would be at risk if DACA is not permanently protected.”
For Obama, the program was also in part a way of offering illegal immigrants an opportunity to create a life for themselves in the U.S. as the program does not give them citizenship, an issue that Congress has to deal with but has proven to be unable to do so in the last four decades or more.
The current existing immigration laws have remained unchanged for decades. Most, if not all of the current DACA recipients have no way to legalize their stay in the country without the program, let alone permanent residency or citizenship.
Many of the legal challenges against the program since its implementation have failed aside from the ruling by 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The course of litigation suggests that any further delay could cause irreparable harm to these individuals and their families, with ripple effects to their workplaces and our economy generally,” the letter reads.
As is always the case with any decision regarding immigration, the responsibility and delay is by way of the GOP officials in the Senate, where 10 Republicans would have to vote with Democrats to approve any legislation. Democrats are, for the most part, pretty unanimous in their support of DACA with only Republicans holding it up.
One of the very few proposals to come from the Republican side was one proposed by Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.) and now-Independent Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in which it would allow a path to citizenship to roughly 2 million Dreamers, with the only downside for them being that internal immigration enforcement measures would not garner the Democratic support needed.
“Latino communities across the U.S. are watching who steps up to fight for Dreamers and who stands by as the lives of Dreamers, their families and communities are upended,” the letter says.
Regardless, the point is that taking away DACA and not offering some legislative replacement would mean the end of one of the more economically successful immigration programs ever proposed, and possibly the end of the road for many Latinos in the country who under the program have been able to create a successful life for themselves and their families.
“We cannot afford for Congress to miss an important opportunity like the one before it now. The time for action is this year and as part of must-pass legislation,” the letter concludes.