The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and rule that the Trump administration was unlawful in its September 2017 rescission of the program was much needed relief for nearly 700,000 DACA recipients nationwide, as well as Colorado’s businesses and the broader economy, but there is still more to be done to protect this crucial Coloradans.
The DACA program, established in 2012, protects young immigrants who came to the United States with their families as children from deportation, and allows these young Americans to legally work in the U.S. and earn an education after submitting an application, paying fees, and undergoing a thorough background check. Then, they must renew their status every two years and go through the process again.
Nationally, immigrants are 17.2 percent more likely to hold a graduate degree than natives. They are also more likely to have less than a bachelor’s degree. This lets them assume positions at the high and low ends of the workforce that might otherwise remain unfilled, hurting local businesses or leading employers to relocate elsewhere.
Colorado’s 27,000 DACA recipients are economic multipliers and essential community members. Many of them are innovative entrepreneurs and business owners who are creating thousands of jobs, many of which are filled by native-born Americans. Others are critical employees in a host of industries including agriculture, tech, construction and education. In fact, in Colorado, Colorado’s DACA recipients contribute an estimated $59.1 million in annual state and local taxes, $113 million in annual federal taxes, and $527 million in annual spending. Without a legislative solution, the ability for DACA recipients to live in Colorado and generate these benefits is in jeopardy.
And given the current crisis, DACA recipients contributions are even more critical as we work to address and overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 4,300 DACA recipients in Colorado have been working on the frontlines as essential workers in the food, health care, and education industries.
We need their critical contributions and I thank Dreamers for their commitment to our communities, despite the legal battle ensuing around them. There are many Colorado Dreamers working to benefit our state just like them that need to be protected too.
The Supreme Court ruling is only a temporary win, however. To ensure that Dreamers can continue living and working in the country they call home, Congress needs to provide permanent legislative protections through legislation such as the American Dream and Promise Act. This bill passed in the House last year on an overwhelming and bipartisan basis and provides Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders with a much-needed pathway to permanent citizenship. Now, it’s the Senate’s turn to follow the House’s example by passing a solution that finally ends the fear and uncertainty that Dreamers and those that rely on them have faced over the past few years.
Dreamers are important Coloradans – before, during, and after this pandemic – and I urge our elected officials to pass permanent protections for them, to benefit our communities and to ensure their contributions to Colorado’s economic future.
I am confident that Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner will work with their colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this done since it’s what’s best for Eagle County as well as our state and nation.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com