Justice for Dreamers

By HENRY GARRIDO

Many of us were morally outraged by President Donald J. Trump’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA protects undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation and allows them to work and study here.

Henry Garrido

Henry Garrido

The day after Trump’s Sept. 5 announcement, I joined New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorneys general of Massachusetts and Washington, young immigrants, nonprofit groups and private companies at a press conference to denounce the repeal.

At the press conference, Schneiderman announced that he and eleven other state attorneys general would contest the Trump administration in court, charging that the DACA shutdown violated federal executive policy-making rules.

Many immigrants understandably felt Trump’s decision to phase out DACA disrespected their community as well as their cultural and economic contributions to the United States.

Yet Trump’s action should not be surprising if you look back to the Republican presidential primary. That’s when he referred to Mexicans as “rapists,” “criminals,” and “drug dealers” and talked about carrying out a mass deportation of the 11 million undocumented workers living in the United States.

At least the president now appears to be softening his position on immigration. Thankfully, the political landscape quickly shifted as the president faced a political backlash.

Republicans were flummoxed when Trump backtracked and decided to work with the Democratic leadership to find a solution that links immigration reform with border security. We hope this works out.

But as the politicians search for a solution, the lives of 800,000 young adults — known as Dreamers — remain unsettled. The dysfunctional Republican-led U.S. Congress could be a roadblock to comprehensive immigration reform.

A DC 37 issue

This issue hits home at our diverse union.

Thousands of our members are immigrants. Furthermore, we represent a lot of Dreamers, who contacted the union and expressed fear that they will be separated from their families and deported to a country they no hardly know.

But let’s not forget that there is a silver lining to the DACA controversy: It opened up the opportunity to discuss the positive contributions of immigrants to our country.

Through their taxes, spending and work, immigrants help keep the economy humming. That is why business leaders from such companies as Microsoft and JP Morgan Chase are among the strongest supporters of DACA.

What would be the cost of expulsing immigrants and closing our borders? Consider these numbers:

● Dreamers pay as much as $2 billion a year in taxes, according to a 2017 study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Those taxes support our schools, public services and infrastructure

● During the 2016 presidential race, a conservative think tank, the American Action Forum, estimated the mass deportation of immigrants would shave 2 percent — $400 billion — from our GNP.

The hostility toward immigrants violates our moral sensibilities and discounts how they have helped build the country.

We must stand against the xenophobic and nationalistic political undercurrent in our country and step up our support of Dreamers and other immigrants as they fight for justice.

Henry Garrido is the Executive Director of District Council 37. This editorial originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Public Employee Press.

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