We need the “Dreamers,” some 700,000 individuals who contribute to our nation’s economy, civic life and faith communities. They arrived in our country as children with their parents, without documents. José Arnulfo Cabrera, a 2018 graduate of Xavier University, is one of them.
José, the director of education and advocacy for migration for the Ignatian Solidarity Network, arrived in the U.S. as a four-year-old with his mother who longed for a better future for her family. Her son succeeded because he persevered in his studies and work, and qualified for a program titled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump Administration’s actions in rescinding DACA in 2017 were “arbitrary and capricious.” The DACA rescission had been on hold because of lower court appeals. President Trump, however, vowed after the Supreme Court ruling to submit enhanced papers to end the program, which then-President Obama created in 2012 as a stopgap measure because immigration legislation had reached a stalemate in Congress.
How would our nation benefit by taking dreams away? How would it benefit the common good to remove essential workers from their jobs and send them back to countries they do not recognize as home?
José shared his immigration story during a June 19 webinar of Justice for Immigrants, a campaign of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that connects a network of Catholic institutions, individuals and others in support of immigration reform. Justice for Immigrants’ website (https://tinyurl.com/y7f3m2d2) provides a plethora of information about DACA. For instance:
• The New American Economy found that DACA-eligible individuals contributed $4 billion in taxes in 2017, almost $2 billion of that amount being contributions to state and local taxes.
• Most immigrants who receive legal status under DACA are employed in some capacity. As of 2017, the employment rate of DACA-eligible individuals stood at 93%. This rate was 33% higher than that year’s average employment rate for the U.S. population as a whole.
• The type of employment that DACA recipients pursue crosses dozens of disciplines, from agriculture to education, to healthcare.
• The United States relies on consumer spending to function, as it affects virtually every part of the economy. In 2017 alone, the DACA-eligible population earned $23.4 billion, which translates to $19.4 billion in spending power after taxes.
Despite this impressive economic news, nearly two decades have passed since legislators introduced the Dream Act in Congress. The proposed law would have provided a path to American citizenship and protection from deportation for young adults whose parents brought them to this country without documents (nytimes.com/article/what-is-daca.html).
Like all parents, the Dreamers’ parents dream for their children to grow up to become productive, thriving members of society and their faith communities. Their dreams help to complete our dreams as a country built by immigrants.
José and his fellow DACA recipients — approximately 3,100 of them live in Iowa (afsc.org) — breathed a deep sigh of relief after the Supreme Court decision. However, they view it as a temporary reprieve. They know that comprehensive immigration reform is essential to creating a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who love their adopted homeland and their role in its prosperity.
We can make that dream come true by asking our U.S. Senators Charles Grassley (grassley.senate.gov) and Joni Ernst (ernst.senate.gov) to support S. 874, the DREAM Act of 2019. Ask them also to support efforts to introduce a Senate companion to H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed one year ago. It is imperative to act now, before the August recess.
Our obligation as followers of Christ provide an even more compelling reason to make DACA dreams come true. Archbishop José Gomez, president of the USCCB, and Bishop Mario Dorsonville, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, explain why in a statement responding to the Supreme Court decision. “First, to DACA youth, through today’s decision and beyond, we will continue to accompany you and your families. You are a vital part of our Church and our community of faith. We are with you.”
The bishops ask us to keep in mind 1 John 3:17: “If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? In this moment, we must show compassion and mercy for the vulnerable.”
Let us pray, and act, to make the dream come true for DACA recipients.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor
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