Mayors call on Congress to protect DACA recipients

A group of 71 mayors from around the country called on congressional leaders to fast-track immigration protections for “Dreamers,” ahead of a GOP takeover of the House of Representatives.

In a letter Tuesday under the Cities for Action banner, the mayors warned that court action could soon invalidate the remainders of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, leaving hundreds of thousands of Dreamers in the lurch.

“A potential Supreme Court decision could strip DACA recipients of their work permits, threaten the livelihood of over 1.3 million DACA-eligible individuals, their families and their communities, and place them on a path to deportation,” wrote the mayors.

The mayor’s argument for legislative action on Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as minors — is moral, economic and political.

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“Over the last decade, more than 830,000 of our family members, neighbors, and friends have been protected under DACA. During the COVID pandemic, 343,000 or more than three-quarters of DACA recipients in the workforce were employed in jobs deemed essential by the Department of Homeland Security,” wrote the mayors.

“It is estimated that over 2.5 million U.S. citizens live with DACA-eligible people. Ending DACA would have a devastating impact on millions of people including DACA recipients, DACA-eligible individuals, their families, friends and communities across the country.”

Democratic leaders in the Senate have thrown their weight behind a bill protecting Dreamers, granting them some form of permanent extension to the work permits and deportation deferrals they received under DACA.

At the same time, many farmers and agricultural labor organizations are pushing to pass a bill to grant a path to citizenship for agricultural workers who have been in the United States more than 10 years.

The House has already passed versions of both the Dreamer and farm workforce bills, putting the onus on the Senate to act.

With a Republican majority due to take over in the House in January, the mayors want that Senate action to happen in the lame-duck period.

“From students and nurses to social workers and essential workers who served on the frontlines during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. is where each of these individuals go to school, hold a job, pay their taxes, and live as upstanding members of our society. I am joining mayors across the country to urge Congress to act on a permanent solution for our Dreamers. The time is now,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

The letter’s co-signers included Mayors James Brainard of Carmel, Ind., and Steve Collier of Lawrence, Ind., both Republicans.

Although nearly 600,000 people are still protected by DACA, that number is decreasing by attrition, as the program only admits people who were in the United States by 2007.

And a recent ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has put the legality of the program on the brink, while preventing the federal government from enrolling new eligible beneficiaries.

Although the Fifth Circuit decision did not strip current DACA holders of their benefits, a Supreme Court ruling in theory could abruptly end the program.

An abrupt end could strip current beneficiaries of their work permits and place them in the federal government’s sights for deportation.

“Dreamers are integral members of our communities – they’re our frontline workers who keep us healthy and safe, teachers and civil servants shaping the next generation, entrepreneurs who build businesses and revitalize our local economies,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, a Democrat.

“They’re our neighbors and friends, and so much more. This country is the only country many of them have ever known and call home, and they should be free from the fear of being driven from their communities. Congress must act now to protect DACA and the Dreamers we’re proud to call our fellow residents.”

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