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Now is the time to stand up for DACA recipients and Dreamers

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As the president of a large public university with close to 400 undocumented students, and many more Dreamers who have graduated and entered the workforce, it is my job to support these hard-working members of our community as they pursue the exceedingly more elusive American Dream.

These students strive to graduate in the midst of uncertainty that the rest of us don’t have to worry about. It is time Congress passed real legislation to ensure these young adults can continue to contribute and thrive in the country they call home.

While most Americans are hunkered down at home, trying to imagine a post-pandemic return to normal, the Supreme Court is weighing whether over 800,000 DACA recipients, many of whom have lived in the United States almost their entire lives, will ever see normal again. 

There are approximately 15,000 DACA recipients in my home state of Colorado. Their economic and civic contributions increase significantly with the completion of a higher education degree. Their loss of DACA status would translate to a loss for our state’s economy and society. Within the context of the COVID-19 national pandemic, these challenges only multiply. 

The Center for American Progress estimated that removing all undocumented immigrants from the U.S. would reduce the country’s gross domestic product by $434 billion per year. But this is about more than their contributions to our economy.

DACA students at Metropolitan State University of Denver are working to become nurses, social workers, engineers and public servants. Even one of our trustees, a first-generation college graduate who became a teacher, is a DACA recipient. 

Nationwide, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports in a recent amicus brief that there are over 27,000 DACA recipients currently working in critical health care professions and on the frontlines of the COVIC-19 crisis. These are the people who are needed to help this country combat the pandemic and who will help the country recover and compete afterward.

Along with other university presidents and chancellors in Colorado, I have urged my congressional representatives to automatically extend work authorization for DACA recipients for two years through legislation and simultaneously call upon the administration to do the same.

We have also asked for legislation that would provide permanent protection for Dreamers without hurting or penalizing other immigrant communities; and we’ve lobbied the administration to refrain from arresting, detaining or deporting Dreamers until Congress enacts permanent relief.

These are the short- and long-term solutions that are needed now to support these aspiring Americans who already contribute so much to our economy and communities, and who will help ensure our nation recovers and prospers beyond this current crisis. 

Janine Davidson, Ph.D., is the president of Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado’s third-largest public university, which earned the federal Hispanic-Serving Institution designation in 2019.

Tags DACA DACA recipients deferred action for childhood arrivals DREAM Act Dreamers economy frontline workers Immigration Immigration to the United States legal status Permanent legal status Supreme Court Undocumented youth in the United States

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