With the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program set to expire in early March, more than 800,000 Dreamers in our nation are running out of time.
It’s time for Congress to act now.
The Dreamers — individuals who arrived in the U.S. illegally under the age of 16 — are immigrants who have lived in our country for at least a decade, were educated in our school systems and have invested in our communities.
According to the Center for American Progress, 95 percent of DACA recipients are working or in school. The termination of DACA would lead to the deportation of integral members of our communities and negatively affect the U.S. economy.
While it is critical that we protect our nation and secure our borders through strong immigration reform, this issue goes to the core of who we are as a nation.
As a country we should lead the way when it comes to the values and principles of dignity, respect, diversity, community and reconciliation. These young people deserve to pursue an education without fear of deportation with the opportunity to continue to contribute to our society.
One of those Dreamers is a recent MBA graduate and employee of Southeastern University, Sayra Garcia Lozano.
I have had the privilege of getting to know Sayra over the past few months. She is a brave, courageous young woman. Her story has been published in numerous newspapers across the country as she advocates for the rights and dreams of immigrants like herself.
In November, she traveled with our team to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress. While we were there, she was able to share her story with many lawmakers, and was even interviewed by Congressman Carlos Curbelo on Facebook Live.
Sayra is a remarkable individual who has worked relentlessly for the rights of Dreamers. At SEU, we are supportive of students who work diligently to cultivate their gifts through the pursuit of higher education. We recognize that these individuals often face obstacles and must make sacrifices in order to receive their education.
This is a bipartisan issue. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, nearly 90 percent of Americans and 80 percent of Republicans believe that Dreamers deserve the ability to earn a path to citizenship. While in our nation’s capital in November, I met with nine lawmakers from both parties to discuss creating a solution for SEU’s DACA students. To be effective in this cause, we must be willing to meet and discuss this issue with our members of Congress.
As a member of the Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, I am working with other university presidents to support policies to create a welcoming environment for immigrant, undocumented and international students and scholars on campuses nationwide.
We are dedicated to increasing public understanding of how immigration policies and practices impact our students. Our commitment as an alliance is to serve all students.
We recognize that our nation is known for world-class education and is a premier destination for students around the world, while realizing the increasing competition from universities abroad. It is imperative that we realize the contribution that immigrants have in our nation and work to retain that talent in our universities.
Another underlying issue is the significant consequences our economy and government will face if DACA were to be repealed.
Recent research by Cato Institute, a public policy research organization, indicated that aggregate economic cost would be over $200 billion and the cost to the government would be $60 billion.
The loss of Dreamers would also impact our workforce. The Center for American Progress estimated that the loss of DACA workers would reduce the U.S. gross domestic product by $433 billion over the next 10 years. The consequences our nation will face are too great to ignore. The Dreamers deserve the opportunity to continue to contribute to our economy.
We can’t sit idly while the dreams of more than 800,000 individuals drift away.
Help us urge Congress to find a legislative solution for Dreamers affected by the repeal of DACA by reaching out to your local members of Congress.
Dr. Kent J. Ingle is president of Southeastern University in Lakeland.