Marking the ninth anniversary of the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has given hundreds of thousands of young immigrants the chance to pursue their dreams in the United States, June 15 was a day of pride and reflection on the immense value of Dreamers in the United States.
However, June 15 also marked another year of frustration and uncertainty.
After nine years, Congress has yet to enact legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, despite broad, bipartisan support among voters for a solution.
Due to this inaction, DACA’s fate currently lies in the hands of Judge Andrew Hanen, a federal judge in Texas who is considering a case that could terminate the program that nearly 700,000 DACA recipients in the U.S. rely on, leaving them to live in constant fear and uncertainty.
For the sake of our communities, families, and economy, we cannot meet another DACA creation anniversary, let alone another day, without Congress passing legislation that would provide an earned pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.
I came to the U.S. as a child myself, and have been able to give back to my community as an educator and now as an immigrant advocate. I am working to make Colorado and America a better place, each and every day.
There are many other immigrants, including many Dreamers, whose stories are similar. They are American in every way but on paper, yet their futures hang in the balance. There are thousands of Dreamers right here in Colorado and throughout the nation who are uplifting our communities, such as Adriana Montiel, an Aurora teacher and DACA recipient.
And Dreamers’ role in our country has become even more clear throughout the COVID-19 crisis. More than 200,000 DACA recipients across the country, including more than 4,300 in Colorado alone, have worked essential jobs during the pandemic.
By failing to provide Dreamers with permanent protections that allow them to stay here — the place where they grew up, went to school, and built a life — Congress is repeatedly reminding Dreamers that, while they have worked hard to build lives here, their safety and security could be taken away at any moment and they could be stripped from our families and communities.
While I celebrated the contributions of Dreamers on June 15, I was also reminded of the ways Congress has failed Dreamers by failing to provide them with a permanent solution.
In addition to the cultural and community richness immigrants bring to the United States, the economic benefit of DACA recipients helps everyone. In Colorado alone, there are more than 14,000 DACA recipients. And Dreamers pay nearly $43.9 million in annual state and local taxes and contribute to our economy.
Multiple solutions are already on the table. In March, in a bipartisan vote, the U.S. House passed the American Dream and Promise Act, which would open a pathway to citizenship to Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status holders, and other undocumented immigrants.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is considering the Dream Act, another bipartisan bill that would protect Dreamers. Yet, Congress remains locked in an endless debate while immigrants’ lives hang in the balance.
Enough is enough — the ninth anniversary of DACA must be its last without an earned pathway to citizenship for Dreamers from Congress.
Marissa Molina is the Colorado state immigration director for FWD.us, a political organization that believes America’s families, communities, and economy thrive when more individuals are able to achieve their full potential.
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