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The chief executives of more than 100 major companies and trade organizations are sending a letter to congressional leadership Wednesday urging them to pass legislation by the end of next week protecting the status of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
IBM, General Motors, Facebook, Dropbox and Blackstone are among the companies backing the effort. The letter, which will also run as a full-page ad in national newspapers Thursday, estimates that allowing the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, to expire would result in a $215 billion hit to the economy.
"The imminent termination of the DACA program is creating an impending crisis for workforces across the country," the letter states. "Failure to act in time will lead to businesses losing valuable talent, cause disruptions in the workforce and will result in significant costs."
Companies are seeking action by Jan. 19 — the deadline for averting a government shutdown — even though DACA does not end until March 5. That would provide the Department of Homeland Security with critical breathing room to make any necessary administration changes, the companies argue.
"It will take time for the agency to implement any program outlined by Congress, underscoring the absolute urgency of the January 19th deadline," the letter states.
Corporate America has been a vocal advocate for a permanent pathway to citizenship for the program's roughly 700,000 undocumented immigrants, also known as "Dreamers." Silicon Valley giants including Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates founded a group called FWD.us to pressure lawmakers to act, bringing roughly 100 DACA recipients to Washington this week for congressional meetings and to rally for a fix.
The new push comes as immigration emerges as the flashpoint in negotiations between Congress and the White House to keep the government running beyond Jan. 19. Republican leadership has declared that the two issues will be addressed in separate legislation, but Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer has made a DACA deal a prerequisite for supporting a government spending measure.
"We should come up with a plan here that Democrats and Republicans can agree on in terms of DACA, add it to the large spending bill and get it done — and get it done quickly," Schumer said Tuesday.
Adding to the confusion was a California court ruling late Tuesday that halted the White House's phaseout of the program. Since the administration began winding it down in October, an estimated 122 DACA recipients have lost their protected status each day, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank. Those immigrants will be able to apply for renewal while the California court reviews the merits of the underlying case.
"This ruling underscores why a permanent, legislative solution must be passed to remove the ambiguity and uncertainty around DACA," IBM said in a statement to CNBC on Wednesday. "IBM urges Congress to act now to protect Dreamers across the country."