The U.S. Senate has finally begun considering legislation that would end the nightmare currently facing America’s 1.8 million “Dreamers,” young, undocumented immigrants brought into the country illegally as children. But though that discussion is a start, it can by no means be the end of the debate. There’s still a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time to do it.
Last year, the Trump administration announced plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program on March 5. Though recent court injunctions have prevented the administration from ending the program as planned, lawmakers need to immediately resume working to find a narrow, long-term legislative solution for Dreamers that also improves border security.
The Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act is a compromise introduced by U.S. Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Pete Aguilar, D-California, that has broad bipartisan support because it rejects unpopular efforts to radically cut legal immigration.
According to a January Quinnipiac University poll, the vast majority of Americans — 89 percent — think immigration is good for our country. Research proves that belief is right. Approximately one in six Texans was born in another country, and more than 330,000 Texas immigrants are self-employed. Those individuals employ more than 420,000 other Texans and generate nearly $8 billion in income annually. Sixteen Fortune 500 firms based in the Lone Star State, including AT&T and Phillips 66, had at least one founder who was an immigrant or the child of an immigrant.
And of the 1.8 million Dreamers in the United States, approximately 500,000 live in Texas. These individuals enhance our culture, and they want to make a meaningful impact on this country and its communities. They are young women like Gloria R., who moved to East Texas with her family when she was just one year old and dreams of being a clinical psychologist, and young men like Irving R. who has been in the United States since he was seven months old and is now an IT business analyst at General Motors. Legislation that offers Dreamers like Gloria and Irving a path to citizenship would add $6.3 billion to the Texas economy.
It’s clear that immigrants and immigration are good for us all.
Perhaps that’s why U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has rejected efforts to link legislation protecting Dreamers with a reduction in green cards or cuts to visa programs. Last October, the senator said, “We ought to be narrowly focused on the DACA fix that the president’s asked us to consider.”
That’s exactly what bipartisan compromises like the USA Act would do. Now we need our leaders, including Sen. Cornyn, to compromise. Continued inaction is not an option.
Sen. Cornyn knows the urgency of this situation, and he knows the contributions Dreamers can make to our country if Congress gives them the chance. He’s acknowledged the only path forward is a narrow bill. That’s now been offered.
Senator and House representatives, let’s pass it.