A Window of Opportunity for Congress: Creating a Permanent Fix for Immigrant Dreamers

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, September 05, 2017

A Window of Opportunity for Congress: Creating a Permanent Fix for Immigrant Dreamers

Today, the Trump administration rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The decision will cause substantial ripple effects through the US workforce. Nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers” have received temporary 2-year work permits under DACA, and surveys have shown that the overwhelming majority are employed. Recent estimates suggest that ending DACA will cause a loss of $460 billion to the national GDP over the next decade.

Many DACA recipients are filling crucial middle-skill positions in the American economy – such as Jesus Contreras, a Houston-area paramedic who recently worked to rescue individuals from Hurricane Harvey. NSC documented the key role that immigrant Dreamers play in meeting labor-market demands in our fact sheet on Dreamers and Middle-Skill Jobs

The administration’s announcement provides a short, urgent window of opportunity for Congress to take action on a more permanent solution to the situation faced by young undocumented immigrants and the American companies that employ them. Under the policy announced today, current DACA recipients will see their work permits and temporary protection expire on a rolling basis starting in March 2018. People with expired permits will no longer be able to work legally and are vulnerable to immediate deportation.

At least 72% of Fortune 500 companies employ DACA recipients, and the program enjoys widespread support among CEOs. Last week, hundreds of business leaders signed an open letter to the Trump administration in support of DACA.

Given the enormous impact of DACA and its beneficiaries on the US economy, Congress should act promptly to create a pathway to permanent legal status and citizenship for Dreamers. The DREAM Act legislation introduced in July by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) represents the most durable solution: A rigorous, carefully designed pathway to legal permanent resident (“green card”) status and the eventual opportunity to apply for US citizenship.

Crucially, this version of DREAM would allow young people who earn certain middle-skill credentials to obtain legal status. This reflects a longstanding NSC recommendation first articulated in our 2015 publication Missing in Action: Job-Driven Educational Pathways for Unauthorized Youth and Adults.

Other legislative proposals include the Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act, spearheaded by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), and the BRIDGE Act, a bill co-sponsored by a bipartisan array of Senators that would provide only temporary protection for Dreamers.

NSC urges Congress to expeditiously take up a legislative proposal such as DREAM that includes a middle-skill pathway and can meet the long-term needs of Dreamers and American businesses alike.