State and federal lawmakers must help address the anxiety, fear and uncertainty that Washington state’s 18,000 Dreamers — immigrants who’ve lived in this country since childhood — face every day by passing legislation that would give them permanent work authorization.
These young people have been allowed to work, go to school or serve in the U.S. military under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) if they pass background checks and pay a fee and taxes.
Created in 2012, DACA authorization is good for two years. Or it was good for two years.
The U.S. Justice Department announced last September that the federal government will shut down the program on March 6. President Donald Trump has asked Congress to replace DACA with something more permanent, but the House and Senate haven’t acted yet.
Our representatives in D.C. need to do something soon. U.S. employers will face $6.3 billion in unnecessary turnover costs if Congress doesn’t replace DACA and the Dreamers are deported.
Our job creators cannot afford this dramatic cost of replacing workers who are integral to our companies, and to our lives as friends, family and loved ones.
Not only will employers face large pitfalls if DACA recipient workers are removed from companies throughout Washington, but our economy will take a hit as well. Washington’s Dreamers contribute $51.2 million in state and local taxes. And their removal would result in an annual loss in GDP of $1 billion.
More than 90 percent of DACA recipients have jobs; the rest are in school. Some are doctors and nurses in our hospitals, while others are completing their studies to join them. Washingtonians cannot afford to lose these individuals.
These young people are important to our communities and to our future. That is why I helped pass Senate Bill 5074 out of the Senate, which will ensure Washington state DACA students are eligible for the college bound scholarship program.
This important legislation will increase the DACA college graduating rate and, as a result, benefit all Washington businesses and communities.
This issue has reached a crisis point for employers, and for the Dreamers themselves. Since September, 15,000 DACA recipients have lost their authorization. At any moment, these individuals could be ripped from their families and sent back to countries they can’t even remember.
That figure continues to grow every day. By March 6, it will increase to 1,200 lost DACA recipients a day.
According to former U.S. Department of Human Services secretaries Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano, and Jeh Johnson, it will take U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services several weeks to create a secure program that can prevent Dreamers from losing work authorization and being deported.
Some lawmakers believe they have until March to do something. That’s wrong. Congress has to get something done by early February.
The situation has become desperate. But there is good news: Members of both parties say they want to help the Dreamers.
Polls show more than 85 percent of Americans want Dreamers to be able to apply for citizenship. That includes eight in 10 Republican voters. Congress needs to do its job. Heed the will of the people.
Help the Dreamers. Time is almost up. Congress needs to find a solution now, not later.
Washington state Sen. Mark Miloscia is a Federal Way Republican representing the 30th Legislative District. Reach him by email at Mark.Miloscia@leg.wa.gov