Florida has never been a stranger to the immigration debate. After all, we are Cubans, Italians, Irish, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and many more. In the past few months, the debate on determining a solution for the almost 800,000 immigrant youth with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has brought us to this critical juncture in U.S. history.
It’s in this moment when elected leaders can do something good. God knows, we are in dire need of feeding America’s soul with a compassionate and righteous act that will allow our leaders to redeem themselves and give young DREAMers the chance to walk the path to citizenship.
Congress can lead us in the right direction. They can pass the Dream Act before Christmas by simply attaching it to a must-pass bill like the year-end federal government spending agreement.
With almost 11,000 DACA recipients who have lost their status and the protections that come with it, the need to pass a legislative solution is urgent — it’s an emergency. In Florida alone, there are more than 33,000 DACA recipients who contribute mightily to our economy and communities.
In fact, according to the Center for American Progress, stripping DACA from Florida Dreamers will result in an annual loss of $1.5 billion to Florida’s GDP.
With so much at stake for Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has to get back on the mic. Before President Trump terminated DACA, Scott had urged him to keep the program: “I do not favor punishing children for the actions of their parents,” he said. “These kids must be allowed to pursue the American Dream, and Congress must act on this immediately.”
The governor’s conviction and willingness to break with Trump demonstrated his grasp of the gravity of leaving tens of thousands of immigrant youth without a home or a future.
Since then, however, it’s been radio silent.
Now is not the time to remain passive. Scott needs to echo the call for a legislative solution to be passed by the end of the year. Already, 34 Republicans in Congress, including Miami’s Rep. Carlos Curbelo, have made a plea to the leadership to reach a DACA fix before going home for the holidays. A bipartisan network of governors, mayors and state legislators have also encouraged Congress to do the same.
Scott needs to follow suit. And do so immediately.
The deadline is now. Talks of a March 2018 deadline to reach an agreement for DREAMers are misleading. DACA recipients are becoming undocumented right now.
What’s more, if Congress does enact legislation to protect DREAMers in December, the first one to receive status under the new law would get it in June or July of 2018 — months after the so-called deadline in March. It would take at least seven months to implement DREAMer legislation from the date a bill is signed into law. DREAMers and young immigrants all around the country who would qualify for the Dream Act are being targeted now — just ask Rosa Maria Hernandez, Daniel Ramirez, Riccy Enriquez Perdomo, and Jessica Colotl, whose heartbreaking stories have made national headlines recently.
Scott has to urge the entire Florida congressional delegation, including Sen. Marco Rubio, to grant DREAMers their holiday wish. It’s not a long shot. The solution and procedure are easy and doable. More important, they would be welcomed by the public in Florida — and across the country.
Esteban Garces is Florida state director of Mi Familia Vota.