Keeping Dreamers, TPS holders in our workforce and communities is essential to the nation’s economic recovery
Our nation remains in the grips of a coronavirus pandemic that has already claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Americans. It is sobering to know that lives could have been saved had the administration acted more quickly. As the virus continues to make its way through our communities, forcing individuals and families to make tremendous sacrifices to preserve their own health and the health of their friends and neighbors, it is creating a growing awareness about how interconnected we all are. Whether we are staying home and staying safe or continuing to work in essential occupations, we are all playing our part.
It is also sobering that the scale of losses to our economy could have been far less painful if the administration had taken quicker action. Our economic recovery will be long and challenging. The key to our success, which will put tens of millions of Americans back to work, is to support our small businesses which are the engines of our national economy. It will require the best efforts of all of us, including the hundreds of thousands of migrants whose lives have been significantly affected by the coronavirus, and who, in large numbers, continue to work on the frontlines. This includes those immigrants who are permitted to live and work in the country as a result of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
More than 200,000 DACA recipients and 130,000 TPS beneficiaries work in jobs that the Department of Homeland Security recognizes as essential to the critical infrastructure of the nation. They are doctors, nurses, and home health aides; farmworkers, food processors, and grocery store clerks. They work in our manufacturing plants, warehouses, and transportation services, putting themselves and their family members at risk of infection every day to care for their fellow Americans, bring food to our tables, and keep the economy running.
But like too many essential workers in our country, instead of being given the protection and support they deserve while performing these services, these immigrant workers are being treated as largely expendable or disposable; approximately 1 million DACA recipients and TPS holders are facing the reality that they may soon be forced to leave the only communities they know as home. Throughout President Trump’s term in office, he has taken steps to cruelly and abruptly end DACA and eliminate these TPS protections. Although courts have blocked these actions from taking effect, decisions are expected very soon, which could uphold the president’s actions and upend the lives of countless individuals and families. In the middle of a pandemic, when hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and TPS holders are risking their lives to support our communities, and heading into an economic recovery that will require the ingenuity and tenacity of all Americans, we cannot allow these individuals to live with this fear and uncertainty any longer.
A year ago today, we worked with our colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, on a bipartisan basis. This historic bill would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers, Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients, and TPS holders, who are American in every way–who have been raising families in the U.S., starting businesses, and contributing to our communities for so many years. As the co-authors of H.R. 6, we were proud to champion this effort to support immigrants who are enriching the fabric of our nation every single day. Unfortunately, this bill has now been languishing in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) legislative graveyard for one full year.
The reality is that the threat facing Dreamers and TPS holders is an entirely avoidable crisis that impacts millions of Americans in mixed-status households. More than half a million U.S.-born children have a parent protected by DACA or TPS, and more than 2 million individuals live with a family member covered by one of these programs. And while there is broad bipartisan support for protecting these communities, their lives have been continuously thrown into chaos due to the actions of the Trump administration.
H.R. 6 honors the will of the American public who strongly favor a path to citizenship for these communities, and would avert the human catastrophe that would result from the deportation of parents, workers, and beloved community members. Today, our bill represents a bipartisan, off-the-shelf legislative solution that would both resolve the crisis created by the Trump administration’s efforts to end DACA and TPS, and help to springboard the nation’s economic recovery by providing permanent protections to people who are already working in critical roles.
We continue to urge Leader McConnell and our Republican colleagues in the Senate to bring H.R. 6 up for a vote. We did our job one year ago, and remain committed to ensuring that our nation’s interests are at the forefront of our work. We strongly believe that H.R. 6 is critical to protecting and honoring the sacrifices of our essential workers, and to preventing the further disruption of communities across America that have been battling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roybal-Allard represents the 40th District of California and is chairwoman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Velázquez represents the 7th District of New York and is chairwoman of the Small Business Committee; and Clarke represents the 9th District of New York.
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