As a leading workforce development organization with deep roots in Texas and strong partnerships with the business community, we are deeply concerned with the tone, content and potential outcomes of the immigration debate in the United States today. We are especially concerned with the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. With actions aimed directly against undocumented residents occurring at an alarming and growing rate, we fear many of the impressive, ambitious young men and women with whom we work will soon be targeted for unfair and unnecessary detainment and deportation.
DACA was put in place in 2012 to provide temporary relief for undocumented residents who were brought to the United States through no fault of their own, since it was their parents or guardians who brought them as children. DACA participants — colloquially known as “Dreamers” — are not getting amnesty. They must first pay fines, adhere to strict age and residency requirements, undergo rigorous background checks and reapply on a regular basis. In exchange, they get temporary relief from deportation — in short, temporary legal status — which allows them to come out of the shadows, live, work and study openly in the only country most have ever known and even do the kind of things you and I take for granted, such as getting a driver’s license.
President Trump, along with House Speaker Paul Ryan and more than 70 other elected Republicans, have called for a legislative solution for Dreamers. Since then, three pieces of bipartisan legislation, including the DREAM Act and RAC Act, have been introduced. These would allow those who apply to receive a pathway to citizenship after meeting a variety of criteria, including passing a background check.
However, the president’s administration continues to send mixed messages about DACA’s fate. Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that DACA is now directly under attack by various state attorneys general. These legal officials in 10 states — including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton as well as Idaho Gov. C.L. Otter — sent a letter in June asking the Department of Justice to remove DACA protections and deport these young people. A larger group of 20 state attorneys general responded by writing to the Trump administration asking them to reject this request.
At Skillpoint Alliance, we provide highly intensive job-training programs for individuals who are just beginning to enter the workforce or seeking to embark upon a new career pathway. These individuals — especially in an immigrant-heavy state such as Texas — tend to be young and thus have a natural and significant overlap with those who participate in DACA (nearly a million young people in the United States as a whole, including tens of thousands here in Texas). Given these circumstances, our recruitment team regularly receives calls from DACA participants terrified about what might happen to them if they enter our programs. These calls have come from both case managers and potential participants.
These fears are justified in that anyone who enters our program would likely be immediately removed if his or her permit is revoked through elimination of the DACA program — if not outright deported. Students who complete our programs graduate with a variety of certifications and licenses. We can only assume these certifications would be revoked in the event that a student is no longer a legally documented resident. This would mean that the hardworking individuals whom we certify would no longer be able to work in the skilled jobs for which we trained them. Our alliance of employers would lose skilled workers and colleagues.
The Dreamers have broken no laws — if they had, they wouldn’t have qualified for the program — and they have grown up in and deeply love our country. They should not be punished for the actions of their parents or guardians. Removing these young people after promising them legal status if they came out of the shadows and played by the rules would be a moral, political and economic disaster for our nation and state.
Congressman Bill Flores, we ask you to take a lead on this and help protect these children.