OPINION — While impeachment inquiries rage on and the 2020 race heightens, we need not forget the policy battles we’ve been fighting for years that affect Americans, regardless of immigration status, each and every day.
Since 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program has shielded young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation, allowing them to legally work or study in the U.S. after completing an application, paying a fee and undergoing a thorough background check. They also have to renew and repeat this process every two years.
This program has provided many benefits to our communities and economy. It has also allowed these young Dreamers, who came to the U.S. at the average age of 6 and who hardly know their birth countries, to come out of the shadows and contribute to U.S. society without fear of deportation.
However, due to congressional failure to pass permanent legislation protecting them, Dreamers’ lives continue to hang in the balance. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments regarding the legality of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the program. By next spring, the highest court in the land could issue a decision terminating the temporary protections that court injunctions have provided Dreamers, making the nearly one million young people this program has benefitted over the past seven years subject to deportation.
That kind of outcome would have a disastrous impact across the nation. According to the American Action Forum, Dreamers contribute $42 billion annually to the economy. They also pay more than $3 billion in annual federal, state and local taxes. Each year, they contribute $2 billion to social security and $470 million into Medicare.
The list of contributions goes on, and that hasn’t gone unrecognized, with nine in 10 Americans saying they support letting DACA recipients stay in the U.S.
These Dreamers worship with us at church on Sunday. They’re educating our children and learning alongside us. They’re nurses, first-responders, lawyers, entrepreneurs, co-workers, parents, family, friends and loved ones.
They are ingrained and integral to the fabric of American society and the economy.
Despite the positive benefits they bring, if the administration has its way, DACA and its protections will be killed.
All Americans, including citizens and noncitizens alike, would benefit from a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers. There is no compelling reason to end this program today, and in fact ending it without a legislative solution is the wrong approach. It penalizes these young people who are doing what they can to contribute to this country.
Moreover, we should all be honest about the challenges of passing any immigration legislation, especially if the Supreme Court allows the Trump administration to end DACA only a few months before the 2020 election. Congress’ failure to find a comprehensive solution over the past two decades is disappointing, and there is plenty of blame to go around. Terminating DACA now is not only the wrong thing to do, but will likely come with severe political consequences for elected officials and continue to send the wrong signals about conservatives and the Republican Party.
Rather than face a political backlash and thrust hundreds of thousands of lives into chaos, we hope the Supreme Court will ensure that DACA remains until a permanent legislative solution is signed into law.
We also hope that a legislative solution is found soon — Dreamers, and those who rely on them, have lived in uncertainty and fear for far too long.
We know we can do better, and we urge our former colleagues to act.
Mike Coffman is a Republican who represented Colorado’s 6th District from 2009 to 2019.
Ryan A. Costello is a Republican who represented Pennsylvania’s 6th District from 2015 to 2019.
Carlos Curbelo is a Republican who represented Florida’s 26th District from 2015 to 2019.
Charlie Dent is a Republican who represented Pennsylvania in the House from 2005 to 2018.
Robert J. Dold is a Republican who represented Illinois’ 10th District from 2011 to 2013 and again from 2015 to 2017.
Leonard Lance is a Republican who represented New Jersey’s 7th District from 2009 to 2019.
Dave Trott is a Republican who represented Michigan’s 11th District from 2015 to 2019.