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Top 3 reasons Trump and Congress need to fix DACA and save the Dreamers now

  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is set to expire in March.
  • Congress should pass a law now protecting the 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought here as children through no choice of their own.
  • An immediate fix for Dreamers makes sense for three reasons.
Demonstrators display American and Mexican flags while protesting the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in Chicago, Illinois, on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017.
Christopher Dilts | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Demonstrators display American and Mexican flags while protesting the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in Chicago, Illinois, on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is set to expire in March, creating an urgency in Congress to pass a law protecting the 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought here as children through no choice of their own.

The new law aims to give these so-called "Dreamers" protection from deportation and the ability to work here legally and pay taxes.

President Donald Trump on Friday said he wanted two major concessions in exchange for legal protections for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who came to the United States as children. That could complicate bipartisan talks.

Whether as teachers or nurses, or as entrepreneurs and home buyers, Dreamers make a huge, positive impact on the U.S. economy.

And now, regardless of DACA's fate in the courts, it's in Congress's power to do what is both right and economically smart. They can guarantee Dreamers stay here – in the only country many of them have ever known – and guarantee it in January, well before DACA officially expires a couple months later.

An immediate fix for Dreamers makes sense for three reasons.

First, the problem Dreamers and their employers face right now is uncertainty, uncertainty, uncertainty. Already, more than a hundred Dreamers ruled ineligible to reapply for DACA are losing their status every day. That number will grow to more than a thousand a day once DACA ends in March.

"President Trump ended 2017 with a win on taxes. Protecting Dreamers presents him the opportunity to start 2018 with an equally headline-grabbing victory"

So a cloud hangs over people who are one of the brightest spots in the economy – ambitious young people getting their degrees, staying out of trouble, and working hard. Collectively, Dreamers earn almost $19.9 billion per year and pay more than $3 billion in federal, state, and local taxes. That's productivity and revenues Congress would do well to lock in for the coming year and beyond.

The second reason an immediate fix for Dreamers makes sense is Americans overwhelmingly want it. Poll after poll shows Americans stand with Dreamers. A CNN poll released in December showed 83 percent of Americans in favor of Dreamers staying. Back in September, a FOX News poll showed 63 percent of Trump voters in favor of Dreamers gaining citizenship. Across the political spectrum, Americans agree – Dreamers deserve the basic opportunity to remain here and pursue their promising careers.

It's clear why a majority of Americans feel that way. Besides their bottom-line economic contributions, Dreamers better their communities. They might not have chosen to come to this country, but provided with a basic opportunity to attend school and work, they've flourished. They're American in every way except legal status, and their stories – from striving and realizing their aspirations, to fearing for their futures now – resonate with people no matter their politics.

Of course, there are political factors at play – and the fact that a solution for Dreamers is smart politics is the third reason Congress should act now.

President Trump ended 2017 with a win on taxes. Protecting Dreamers presents him the opportunity to start 2018 with an equally headline-grabbing victory, a Nixon-goes-to-China moment. As a hardliner on immigration (just as Nixon was on communism) protecting Dreamers could show Trump has both heart and an ability to succeed where efforts on immigration reform have failed over and over again since 2001. Plus, unlike the party-line vote on taxes, the vote for Dreamers promises to be bipartisan.

Key indicators show the economy is humming. But growing the pie will take more – more talent, more students and workers, more entrepreneurs and innovators. That's where the Dreamers come in. Most are bilingual and well educated. Their skills are in high demand, and they help power an already strong economy.

Firing and deporting such talented young people makes no business, practical, or political sense. The stars have aligned, and after tax reform, the time is right for an encore piece of landmark legislation.

Without delay, Congress should end the uncertainty, shore up the economy, and keep Dreamers hard at work here in the country they love.

Commentary by Jeremy Robbins, the executive director of New American Economy, a bipartisan coalition that supports immigration reform.

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