For thousands of immigrants across the country, this is an important and deeply meaningful week with milestones of incredible importance to themselves and their families. June is Immigrant Heritage Month; a time to celebrate the countless contributions of the many immigrants who make up key threads in the fabric of our nation. This past Tuesday, June 15th, also marked the ninth anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Since its implementation in 2012, the DACA program has granted young immigrants who came to this country as children, also known as Dreamers, deportation protections and work and school authorizations. The DACA program recognizes that this is the only home Dreamers know. They grew up here, went to school here, played in youth sports leagues here and are Americans in every conceivable way, but on paper. Because of DACA, thousands of young Dreamers have been able to build lives for themselves and their families here in the United States. And in the process, Dreamers have made our country stronger.
Here in Colorado, we’re no stranger the positive impact Dreamers have on our communities. More than 16,000 DACA recipients call our state home. They are our neighbors, our classmates, co-workers, nurses, teachers, and friends. They’re also key participants in our state’s economy. Annually, Colorado’s DACA recipients pay over $59 million in state and local taxes and own nearly $530 million in spending power. If DACA recipients were removed, it would cause a $839 million loss to our state’s annual GDP.
Moreover, DACA recipients have been crucial to Colorado’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With labor shortages in essential sectors across the state, more than 4,300 DACA recipients stepped up to the plate and served on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic by filling critically needed jobs in the health care, education, and food supply industries.
This Friday, June 18 also marks the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to protect the DACA program and the lives of Dreamers nationwide. This anniversary brings both joy and trepidation. On one hand, it’s the day the Supreme Court protected DACA. But on the other, June 18 is a reminder that the DACA program, and the thousands of Dreamers protected by DACA, remain in danger. In fact, a year ago, I made a similar call to action as I am today: Congress needs to pass legislation that provides Dreamers with an earned pathway to citizenship.
This need to provide this pathway is urgent. Right now, a judge in Texas is considering a case that could end the DACA program. If DACA is struck down by Judge Hanen, the lives of Dreamers across the country would be thrown into chaos, suddenly at risk of deportation to countries they barely know. The termination of DACA would be an economic and moral disaster for our nation.
Recently, the Dream and Promise passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan basis. This bill, alongside the Senate companion, the Dream Act, would open an earned pathway to citizenship for qualified Dreamers, allowing them to continue living and working in the only country they truly know.
These solutions in these bills are also widely popular. A recent report by FWD.us found that 71 percent of Americans support the Dream Act. Additionally, 79 percent of Americans support pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. over ten years or have U.S. citizen children and 75 percent of Americans support citizenship for those married to U.S. citizens.
The Senate has a responsibility to pass these long overdue reforms and protect Dreamers from needless and cruel deportation. I urge Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper to work with their colleagues on both sides of the aisle to send the Dream Act to President Biden’s desk.
We cannot let nine years turn into a decade of uncertainty and fear. This June, I pray that Congress does what’s right and secures a future of opportunity and promise for the thousands of Dreamers who call this nation home.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com