Most Americans want to help Dreamers. Trump shouldn’t stand in the way

Attempts by White House to terminate program could put GOP Senate majority in jeopardy this fall

Dreamers and DACA supporters rally outside the Supreme Court on June 18 after the justices rejected the Trump administrations push to end the program.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Dreamers and DACA supporters rally outside the Supreme Court on June 18 after the justices rejected the Trump administrations push to end the program. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted July 17, 2020 at 8:00am

We’re regularly reminded of the rich immigrant heritage and welcoming culture that have made our country so great. It’s part of what makes America exceptional and something we should celebrate and foster. However, recent actions by the Trump administration have reflected immigration priorities that differ from many Americans. 

There’s no shortage of elected officials on both sides of the aisle, past and present, acknowledging the importance of immigrants to our nation and working to protect their contributions. For example, President Ronald Reagan said in his final speech in office, “We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people — our strength — from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation.”

In April, Republican Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Todd Young of Indiana, alongside Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chris Coons of Delaware, introduced the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, which would help address our nation’s shortage of doctors and nurses by recapturing previously unused visas to allow more foreign-born doctors and nurses to join the ongoing fight against COVID-19 in the U.S.

And when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, Republican senators were quick to praise the decision. Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski called it a “sigh of relief” and noted that DACA recipients “deserve certainty” and “have the right to work and a path to citizenship.” Texas Sen. John Cornyn advocated a “permanent legislative solution,” saying in a floor speech that DACA recipients” deserve nothing less.”

Despite these calls for reform, attacks on our immigrant neighbors ensue. Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently implemented — and then swiftly rescinded, following opposition from major universities — a policy that would require international students to leave the country if their schools moved to online-only courses.

And despite calls for a DACA solution from both side of the aisle, the administration has yet to order the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services to reopen new DACA applications and continue processing renewals for the program, as is needed to comply with the Supreme Court ruling. Last week, President Donald Trump told Telemundo he planned to sign a merit-based immigration reform executive order that would include a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, the young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. However, a clarifying statement from the White House was less forthright, and there are no signs that the president and his administration will halt their renewed plans to terminate DACA.

For over eight years, the DACA program has allowed Dreamers to legally study and work without fear of deportation. Their households pay $5.7 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes each year, and they contribute to every sector of our economy. DACA recipients are also playing an important role in our pandemic response, with over one-third of them working in essential industries.

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A permanent legislative solution for Dreamers is needed to ensure these benefits remain. I called for this while in office and have continued to support congressional action through vehicles such as the American Dream and Promise Act, which has passed the House, to provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and codify their protections into law.

The majority of Americans, including those who voted for President Trump, also want to protect Dreamers.

As such, the Trump administration should halt its attempts to terminate the program. Not only is ending DACA wrong, but should the administration move forward with rescission this close to November, it would start an immigration reform battle that would put the president and Senate Republicans in an increasingly vulnerable position at a time when they can’t afford to do so.

The president should allow Congress to work toward a solution for Dreamers, comply with the Supreme Court’s decision and allow DACA recipients to continue contributing to our country. This would be one step toward recognizing the integral role immigrants are playing in our country and have played for generations.

Ryan A. Costello is a Republican who represented Pennsylvania’s 6th District from 2015 to 2019.