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Keep our family immigration system out of Dream Act negotiations

Keep our family immigration system out of Dream Act negotiations
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During the holiday season, many of us reunited with our family members to celebrate the year and to welcome 2018. The powerful value of the family, including extended relatives, is neither conservative nor liberal. Rather, it is an American value.

Nevertheless, the White House and several Republican senators are proposing to separate families by cutting immigration in half and ending our family-based immigration system. The White House has demanded that any deal for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients include an end to so-called “chain migration,” the term they use to avoid the use of the word “family.” Cuts to immigration would be bad for our country and disproportionately harm Asian American communities and other communities of color.

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Today, 92 percent of Asian Americans are immigrants or the children of immigrants. The vast majority of Asian Americans came through our family-based immigration system created by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. With the passage of that law, the United States finally dismantled our racist national origin quotas and the remaining vestiges of the Chinese Exclusion Act, creating the vibrant and diverse communities that we know today.

As everyone knows, families are a source of love and support but also a source of stability, prosperity and community strength. Together, families buy homes, put their loved ones through school, and start businesses that create jobs. Immigrants started 28 percent of all new U.S. businesses in 2011, despite accounting for just 13 percent of the U.S. population. This focus on family unity is one reason the United States has been able to attract talented immigrants, and maintain the country’s dynamism and innovative spirit.

The nativists supporting cuts to immigration claim that their goal is to reduce competition and protect native-born workers. This is scapegoating not based in reality. The reasons for wage stagnation in the U.S. are multiple and complicated but almost all economic studies show that immigration has an insignificant effect on this problem. An open letter from 1,470 economists states their “broad consensus that immigration is one of America’s significant competitive advantages in the global economy.”

Let’s be clear. The future flow of immigration is irrelevant to a discussion about legalizing DACA recipients. These immigrants are already part of our labor market, so offsetting them with cuts to visa categories makes no sense. A Breitbart News article reveals another goal. It describes the White House’s plans as cutting in half “the annual immigration inflow of new workers and future voters,” illustrating a desire to reduce the number of people of color who become citizens.

Americans overwhelmingly agree that Congress should pass the Dream Act. The president has promised to solve the problem he created when he ended DACA. He and his Senate colleagues should not play politics with the lives of 800,000 young people by demanding that we change the future composition of our country to satisfy the nativist views of a small minority of Americans. That would be un-American.

John C. Yang is president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an organization created to advance civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to promote a fair society for all.