Eight House Republicans are pushing new legislation to provide a pathway to legal status for young immigrants who entered the United States as children—commonly known as “Dreamers.” Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and seven other Republican members introduced Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act today (PDF). The bill will benefit the United States economy and provide certainty for a group of young people who are deserving of a humane approach.
The bill would grant conditional legal permanent status to immigrants who have arrived before the age of 16, have been in the United States since January 1, 2012, have graduated high school, and have either been accepted into college or vocational school, applies to enlist in the military, or works with an existing valid work authorization. The conditional status will be cancelled if they become dependent on government, are dishonorably discharged from the military, or are unemployed for more than a year. The conditional status woudl become permanent after 5 years if they graduate from college or vocational school, are honorably discharged from the military or has served for 3 years, or have been employed for at least 48 months.
As my colleague Ike Brennan has noted, the economic benefits of the Dreamers are enormous. His research for Cato about the DACA program that has allowed many Dreamers to live and work legally in the United States concluded that:
the fiscal cost of immediately deporting the approximately 750,000 people currently in the DACA program would be over $60 billion to the federal government along with a $280 billion reduction in economic growth over the next decade.
I have also written about how the claim that the DACA program for Dreamers attracted children to the border causing the unaccompanied child migrant crisis is inaccurate. The numbers show that the crisis began before DACA was ever announced, and that DACA did not change the upward trend in children coming to the border. DACA, nor this bill, will lead to a more insecure border.
President Trump has repeatedly claimed that he wants to treat the Dreamers humanely, calling them as recently as last month “these incredible kids” and saying he would treat them with “great heart.” So far, he’s kept his word not to end the DACA program, but because he promised to end it, it makes sense for him to seize this opportunity and defend this bill that would provide certainty for these immigrants while keeping his promise to end DACA.