I’m not the leader of the free world or a businessperson trying to run this country. Nor am I a legislator. I am a lawyer. A lawyer from Puerto Rico. A lawyer from Puerto Rico who represents a number of Latino clients.
So what do I know about making the tough decisions concerning nearly 800,000 DACA children that Congress is now tasked with making?
I know one thing. There is the law of the land. And there is moral and ethical justice. The two don’t always align. History shows that a number of our laws have not withstood the moral test of time. Jim Crow and the Japanese internment camps come readily to mind.
Let’s don’t make the mistake of adding DACA to this list. Instead, let’s make this a teachable moment. I envision this heavy DACA cloud that has been shadowing our American Dreamers as having a silver lining – an opportunity to produce a win-win all around.
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This is Congress’ and the Trump Administration’s opportunity to stop acting like kindergartners with their incessant finger-pointing and he-said-she-said and make a grown up decision for once. A decision that would be good for our economy, good for the morale of the citizenry, and good for their own reputations.
Working together and presenting a bipartisan plan could be a very healing time in our nation’s history.
Dreamers consider themselves Americans even though many toddled across the border as unwitting chubby-legged tots. Or self-doubting pre-teens that found themselves rendered mute in large unfamiliar classrooms of clicky English-only speakers.
One of my colleagues embodies our typical American Dreamer. As a young child, she, her mother, and siblings, walked across a freezing cold December Baja in the dead of night before finally crawling through an insect-infested and trash-filled drainpipe under a highway to reach U.S. soil. She spoke no English but quickly learned it. She worked during high school and went to college on an academic scholarship, and worked during college too.
She won a business competition (No. 1 in the state, and then No. 7 in the country). She began working just a couple of years ago at our firm as a receptionist and is now a paralegal. Our clients love her. We do too. She confides that she has everything she’s ever wanted and worked hard for. North Carolina is the only home she knows – she doesn’t remember Mexico. And she has lived in a state of fear and anxiety every day because of her temporary status and no opportunity for citizenship under the current DACA law. This Dreamer’s dream could turn nightmarish at any time.
She, like other American Dreamers, live in a political netherworld where they are at the mercy of unpredictable partisan trade winds.
But the young can easily adapt. And adapt our American Dreamers did – to the benefit of our economy in the form of tax revenues and GDP contributions.
Of the nearly 800,000 Dreamers here (reportedly 27,000-plus in NC,) less than 0.2 percent, according to studies, have had their status rescinded due to crime.
Forbes reported Center for American Progress statistics that illustrated this point. Since DACA was implemented:
Dreamers’ average hourly wages have risen 69 percent. That’s 69 percent more tax dollars going to cities, states, and the fed.
▪ 16 percent of DACA recipients bought homes
▪ 5 percent started their own business
▪ 69 percent rose in the ranks to a better job with higher pay
▪ 90 percent obtained a driver’s license or state ID for the first time
▪ 65 percen bought their first car (more revenues)
▪ At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies employ DACA beneficiaries
▪ And thousands more work in tens of thousands of other smaller businesses. Including my law firm.
Most Dreamers, like my colleague, are now in their 20s either working or students or both. Seventy percent have a U.S. citizen parent, sibling, or child. Of the nearly 800,000 Dreamers here (reportedly 27,000-plus in NC,) less than 0.2 percent, according to studies, have had their status rescinded due to crime.
These kids have had to undergo serious background checks in order to be accepted into DACA. They are not threats to society. They are contributors. A lot of them want to fight for this country in our military. Many were so young when they moved here they know of no other home than America. They are much more American at this point than anything else and most want to be American citizens but are not allowed.
The cost to us if we send them packing is estimated to be around $400 billion.
Wasn’t it Attorney General Jeff Sessions who said he wants to make our immigrant program merit based and welcome contributing members of society?
Then Congress should send to the president for his signature immigration reforms that will stand as both the law of the land and be a morally just course of action. As well as one that makes good business sense besides. Let’s allow Dreamers to achieve the ultimate American Dream of finally being able to obtain U.S. citizenship. After all they have contributed to this country, don’t we owe them that?
Attorney Anabel Rosa is an attorney at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. She chairs the City of Durham’s Mayor’s Hispanic-Latino Committee and is past chair of the Latino Affairs Division at the North Carolina Advocates for Justice