The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 18 DACA decision while welcomed, however, is not the end of the story.
The economic road ahead for the Sunshine State will be tough. To rebuild, we need a strong workforce and tax and economic support where we can find it.
That’s why I’m glad that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as DACA recipients are crucial economic and community members that will benefit our shared pandemic response.
The DACA program provides immigrants who came to the U.S. as children with their families with the ability to apply for and obtain temporary deportation protections and allows them to legally study and work in the U.S. These DACA recipients, or Dreamers, came to the U.S. at a young age, and have since attended Florida schools and built their careers, lives, and families here. In 2017, the Trump administration attempted to rescind the program. A decision which resulted in the recent Supreme Court opinion thankfully upholding the program. However, this decision is only temporary, and we need to make their protections permanent.
The Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and our members recognize that permanent protections for Dreamers, and support for the immigrant community, is very important as we rebuild from COVID-19. DACA recipients are at the forefront of the fight against this invisible virus, as doctors, nurses, physician assistants, first-responders, grocery workers, sanitation aides and more.
In addition to their role in fighting against the coronavirus pandemic, these young people play roles in other key industries. DACA recipients are trusted employees and workers, and many have even started their own businesses that employ native-born Americans. Many of the 24,810 DACA recipients in Florida own homes and pay mortgages. They also contribute millions of dollars in tax revenue. Each year, our state’s DACA recipients contribute an estimated $72.5 million in state and local taxes and an estimated $165.5 million in federal taxes. And they represent close to a billion dollars in spending power that further strengthens our economy and adds to the economic health of our state.
In ending the DACA program, the Trump Administration ignored the vast majority of Americans who support the hopes and dreams of these young people who now call the United States their home – the only home so many of them have ever known. Our state and our nation should be celebrating and valuing the contributions of these young people.
The high court’s June 18 decision while welcomed, however, is not the end of the story.
Congress needs to provide a permanent solution to protect these Americans and their contributions to our state from an uncertain future. I urge the Senate to pick up where the House of Representatives left off by passing the American Dream and Promise Act. The passage of this legislation such as this is the only way to ensure these young people receive a path towards permanent citizenship that puts an end to the fear and uncertainty they’ve faced for years now.
At a time when our country is facing an unparalleled crisis, we need everybody who calls this nation home fighting to restore our safety, our economy and our way of life. I encourage Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott to work across the aisle to pass this vital legislation and keep these young people in Florida. Today was a temporary win in part of a larger battle that must be put to rest.
JULIO FUENTES, LAKE WORTH
Editor’s note: Fuentes is President and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.