Coalition joins to support the Dream Act of 2017

On September 27, 2017, thirty members of Maine’s business, economic development, labor, and higher education sectors, including MeBIC and many MeBIC partners, sent a letter to Maine’s Congressional delegation urging them to support the Dream Act of 2017 (S. 1615, H.R. 3440). The Dream Act would provide a path to permanent status for young adults who came to the U.S. while still children, who will soon become undocumented following the Administration’s decision to rescind the DACA program effective March 5, 2018.

MeBIC helped spearhead this effort.  Learn more about the urgent need for Congress to pass the Dream Act or another durable solution for those with DACA, here.

MeBIC partners meet with Sen. Susan Collins about DACA youth

On September 8, 2017,  representatives of several MeBIC partners met with Senator Susan Collins, to urge her to work for a permanent solution for the DACA  youth who will lose their legal status and work eligibility on March 8, 2018.

In attendance were Dana Connors, CEO of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Carla Dickstein, SVP for Research and Policy Development at Coastal Enterprises, Inc., Mark St. Germain, President of St. Germain Collins, David Barber, Senior Consultant at Barber Foods,   David McElhinny, President, and Cindy Caplice, Human Resources, of SIGCO, Inc., and  MeBIC’s Executive Director, Beth Stickney, together with a young man holding DACA status who will become deportable when DACA ends.

Attendees discussed Maine’s acute and worsening workforce shortage, and the importance of immigrants to Maine’s communities, labor supply, and economy.  The DACA holder, who is pursing a STEM degree in college, told of growing up in Maine since age four, and explained that he was in high school when he first learned that he had no legal status.  He described the doors that opened once he got DACA, allowing him to work, pay taxes, and pay his way through college.  He told Senator Collins about the business he started, where he employs local workers and pays payroll taxes.   He would have to close his business and lay off his employees, and could not afford to continue studying, if Congress fails to create a path to legal status for those who will soon lose their DACA status.   He urged Senator Collins to support the Dream Act of 2017.

The Senator was clearly moved by the young man’s story, and stated her unambiguous commitment to finding a solution so that he, and the nearly 800,000 other DACA holders like him, can stay and reach their full potential in the U.S.

DACA Program to end

On September 5, 2017, the Administration rescinded the DACA program, which offered legal protections and work permits to undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S since they were children. The government stopped accepting renewal applications on October 5, 2017. If Congress does not act to provide a path to legal status for them, by March 6, 2018, an estimated 1400 DACA holders per day will lose their work permits and revert to being undocumented. This includes several hundred DACA recipients in Maine. This is not only cruel, but will harm our economy, as explained below.

What is DACA?

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood  Arrivals) was a program created by President Obama on June 15, 2012. It allowed undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before June 15, 2007 as children or youth under age 16, who have grown up and were attending or had completed high school or obtained their GED here, to apply for temporary status (following background checks and paying substantial fees) so that they could go on to higher education, jobs, or military service following high school.  These were individuals who would gain a path to permanent resident status under the DREAM Act, a bill repeatedly introduced in Congress since 2001, were it to pass.  (DACA recipients are often called DREAMers, as a result.)

The Executive Branch carries out the immigration laws, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that Branch’s “prosecutorial discretion” in deciding whom it will deport.  With an estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S., the Obama Administration exercised prosecutorial discretion in offering protection from removal on a case-by-case basis (via individual applications) to the undocumented youth who would be eligible for permanent legal status under the DREAM Act, were Congress to pass it.

About 800,000 DACA holders must now hope that Congress will pass the Dream Act of 2017 (S.1615, H.R. 3440) or another permanent solution, so that they are not forced out of the mainstream and into the shadows, or worse, deported from the country that is their only real home, and that needs their talents.