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Bipartisan ‘USA Act’ Will Help Virginia Dreamers

The clock is ticking and, across America, there are a million young people who are desperate for a long-term legislative solution for their futures by the March 5 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [1]) deadline. Right here in Virginia we have 12,300 Dreamers who live, work, and attend school in our communities.

New bipartisan legislation was introduced [2] Monday on Capitol Hill that could help with the status of DREAMers as well as the issue of border security:

Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain teamed up to sponsor the Uniting and Securing America or the USA  Act.

Sen. Coons tells 47 ABC that when it comes to these issues, “Kicking the can down the road is a terrible idea.”

The bill focuses on protecting Dreamers from deportation and providing a pathway to citizenship while also implementing new border security measures.

Coons says he sees this bill as a bipartisan option that has drawn strong support in the House and will hopefully allow the Congress to move forward with a solution.

Co-sponsored by House members Will Hurd (R-TX) and Pete Aguilar (D-CA), it is a companion to the Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act introduced in the House [3] in January, and already has 54 co-sponsors in the House, an equal number of 27 Republicans and 27 Democrats.

Adoption of this piece of legislation would give Virginia’s 12,300 DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” the opportunity to apply for American citizenship. This compromise is exactly what they have been waiting for and what is needed. It is balanced, narrowly-tailored, and it should prove to be politically popular on both sides of the aisle.

Dreamers face extreme uncertainty. On Tuesday the Trump administration pledged to shut down DACA on the March 5 deadline, leaving the young immigrants who were brought here as small children at risk of deportation. Not only will Dreamers face the threat of removal, but they will no longer be afforded the rights to go to school, work, and contribute to this country, rights that were afforded to them under DACA.

White House chief of staff John Kelley showed little sympathy [4] while informing reporters the deadline would not be extended:

“There are 690,000 official DACA registrants and the president sent over what amounts to be two and a half times that number, to 1.8 million,” he said. “The difference between [690,000] and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up.”

A rigorous process is in place in the USA Act that would not only help Dreamers achieve citizenship but also provide funding for more agents, technology, and physical barriers at the border.

Public sentiment is on the side of these most innocent of immigrants. A Monmouth University poll [5] Monday showed that two-thirds of Americans felt Dreamers should be allowed to stay — 77 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Republicans, and 60 percent of independents. But public sentiment without action will not save them.

The time to act is now, and Washington policymakers should welcome this common sense bill as the solution needed. It is hoped that Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and Congressman Scott Taylor (R-VA) will support this bill. In September, Rep. Comstock commented [6], “The House and Senate along with the administration must now come together and find common ground that leads to bipartisan solutions that not only address the DACA issue, but also our critical border security and enforcement issues.” Rep. Taylor has noted, “Now is our time in Congress to lead with justice, mercy, and compassion on this issue.” [7]

Congress has already waited too long, and now Dreamers and the companies that employ them face a crisis. More than 16,000 DACA recipients already have lost their ability to work. Starting in March, more than 1,200 individuals will lose their jobs every single day. The resulting labor turnover will cost U.S. employers $6.3 billion.

That’s not the only cost. DACA recipients have started their own businesses, bought cars and homes, and many have started families of their own here in America. They are a major source of purchasing power.

If Congress fails to act quickly to provide a long-term legislative solution for Dreamers, the U.S. economy will lose a total of $460 billion in GDP over the next decade. These losses are just a few of the reasons that so many Americans are in favor of the passage of legislation like the USA Act.

The deadline is looming. Bipartisan legislation has been presented to the House and Senate who must take quick action to send the bill to the president’s desk. Let’s save the Dreamers.