Few places in America showcase the American Dream as well as Miami-Dade.
More than half of our residents are immigrants who form the backbone of our heroic teams of first responders, world-renowned tourism industry, our agriculture and now-booming tech sector and many others. Our diversity makes us one of the most exciting and culturally rich communities in America, and a beacon of hope for so many who come to this country in the search for freedom. Unfortunately, many immigrants in Florida are living in limbo with a temporary immigration status waiting on Congress to create a path for millions of people who have lived in this country for decades.
Florida is home to one of the largest populations of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders in the country, including Haitians, Venezuelans, Salvadorians, and Hondurans, who have been living here for decades, built their families here, and contribute to our economy, but who have been forced to move from one temporary status to another. Just last week, the Biden administration opened the application process for Haitians to renew or apply for TPS for the first time due to the critical crisis their country is enduring — but that status will only last 18 months.
In addition to TPS holders, Florida is also home to approximately 170,000 young “Dreamers” with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). For nearly a decade, young undocumented immigrants called Dreamers — who came to our country as children and grew up in our neighborhoods, attended our schools, and went on to become our teachers, first responders and more — have been at the mercy of courts and judges.
Since 2012, thousands of Dreamers have held onto a temporary status through DACA that allowed them to live free from the fear of being deported, while they wait for an opportunity to finally start the long path to citizenship. But last month Texas Judge Andrew Hanen ruled to strike down DACA — shutting down the dreams of any young immigrant who has been waiting to become eligible for DACA, and putting at risk those who are currently protected under it. This recent ruling is a wake-up call that reminds us how temporary protections for immigrants can be taken away any minute.
In Miami-Dade, we’ve talked the talk when it comes to welcoming people from all over to become part of our community through initiatives like the Office of New Americans. But we need Congress to let us walk the walk.
Allowing Congress to sit idly by while temporary protections for young DACA recipients are stripped away upsets our ability to fund infrastructure, schools, and programs like Medicare and Social Security, which depend upon payroll deductions from this critical workforce. It also hurts employers and businesses who depend on Dreamers as workers and customers.
To ensure our community can thrive to our fullest potential, we need Congress to guarantee our immigrant neighbors can grow and prosper alongside the rest of us.
A stronger, more equitable Miami-Dade will only be possible through policies that build upon the essential contributions of an immigrant workforce and immigrant-owned businesses. By failing to fully integrate Dreamers, TPS-holders, and care and farm workers through legalization — bringing valuable labor, creativity, leadership, and an entrepreneurial spirit into our legal economy — we miss out on reaching our true potential.
Too often, the discourse of “waiting for the right time” is deployed around immigration reform. But there is no better time than now to rise to the occasion and commit to a legislative solution that grants citizenship to those who have called our country home for years, especially now that the Senate approved a budget resolution that includes a path to protect millions of essential immigrants.
We urge the Biden administration and leaders in Congress to continue their efforts to provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, and their families through the budget reconciliation process. Throughout the pandemic, they have disproportionately been on the frontlines, keeping our country going. They will also be the backbone of our recovery.
Americans agree — 64% of voters support providing a pathway to citizenship to kickstart the economic recovery.
Ensuring Dreamers, TPS holders, and other immigrant workers can become U.S. citizens is essential to living up to the promise of America. We owe it to all those who have already helped to build and shape Miami-Dade and communities across this country — and who deserve a permanent place to call home.
Daniella Levine Cava is mayor of Miami-Dade County.