DACA is the abbreviation for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This is a program put in place by the Obama administration in 2012. This decision was made after Congress failed to pass a bipartisan plan called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) act. The young people affected are therefore called Dreamers. These individuals were children when their parents brought them to the United States. They have, for the most part, grown up in America and self-identify as Americans based on the fact that living in the United States is the only life they know.
Legal immigrants have gone through a process involving paperwork and other checks and balances to confirm that they will bring needed skills to a new life in America. I can recall one legal immigrant who very forcefully pointed out that he and his family took a rigorous path to earn American citizenship; this person felt it would be unfair to allow other folks to become citizens without a similar process. It should be noted that the proposed DREAM act did not create citizenship for the Dreamers, but it did allow for permanent residence.
Our own First Congressional District of Tennessee has an estimated 400 recipients of DACA protection, with another estimated 400 eligible persons. Our district population is around 712,000, so we are talking about only one in a thousand of our region’s residents. It seems unlikely that a number this small would displace a large number of citizens from work. The economic contribution these folks make to our region is estimated to be about $16 million per year, so our region is more likely to be harmed than helped if massive deportations of Dreamers were to occur.
But we must never forget that this situation involves real, living, breathing human beings. A long-standing citizen of our region whose husband had recently been deported called my campaign this week. After a 15-year marriage, she must now raise their three children as a single mother. Her children have trouble sleeping at night because they are worried about the future. On Saturday, I met a young man who has lived in Washington County for 21 of his 22 years. His goal is to graduate from college and then begin contributing to the community he loves. But he worries he may be deported and never have a chance to return, with his future hard work, the kindness he has received back to the people of Upper East Tennessee.
These folks are our neighbors. They live in fear because of a lack of will in Washington to address the issue.
This is a problem Congress can actually solve. It is not like the opioid epidemic, or global warming, or North Korea. All Congress has to do is come to an agreement, pass a law such as the DREAM bill proposed in 2012, and then move on to address another different problem. These real human beings, these folks who contribute to the welfare of our district, feel as though they are pawns in the machinations of political bickering.
It is way past time for Congress to remember that its failure to promptly address issues has very negative consequences for decent hardworking human beings. We can do better.