As the son of Bahamian immigrants, immigration is an issue that hits close to home. With immigrants encompassing one in every five Floridians, we are all uniquely aware of the contributions they make in our communities. This is especially true in Miami, a city that immigrants have called — and always will call —home.
Among the many immigrants who live in Florida, more than 32,000 are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. More than 57,000 others hold Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Many of them found refuge in the United States after fleeing civil war and natural disasters. In Florida, immigrants are more than a statistic. They are real people contributing to neighborhoods across the state. Immigrants are your tennis coach, your Apple “genius,” your child’s teacher and the security guard in the lobby of your office building. They are important members of our community and are helping Florida grow.
Unfortunately, DACA recipients are particularly vulnerable. Two years ago, on Sept. 5, 2017, the Trump administration terminated the DACA program, placing these young people at risk of separation from their families, jobs and the only community they have ever known. Since then, they’ve been stuck in legal limbo after court injunctions have left the program in place temporarily.
However, these temporary protections could soon come to a screeching halt: The Supreme Court is reviewing litigation surrounding the program this month, which could eliminate protections from deportation at any moment. This is despite the fact that courts across the country have clearly and repeatedly said that the administration’s decision to terminate the DACA program was illegal.
DACA recipients are incredible economic assets to our community. With 90 percent of Florida’s more than 32,000 DREAMers currently employed and more than 4,000 working as entrepreneurs, they are making essential contributions to the state’s economy. Further, the more than 87,000 DACA-eligible Florida residents pay almost $115 million in state and local taxes and hold over $1.3 billion in annual spending power. Without DREAMers, Florida’s GDP would lose more than $1.5 billion annually.
Despite living in uncertainty for two years because of congressional inaction, DACA recipients have improved all of our lives. They have strengthened our labor force, created crucial jobs, started businesses and made themselves essential parts of our community.
Giving them a pathway to citizenship will benefit all Floridians. Our economy will continue to expand and our tax revenue will rise if a solution for them is enacted and they are able to continue paying taxes. However, if inaction continues and they are separated from their jobs, communities, and families, then all Floridians will suffer.
Fortunately, Congress has a historic opportunity to take action and provide DACA recipients with the long-term legislative solution they have earned and that our communities and economy need. The Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) currently sits in the Senate awaiting a vote after passing the House earlier this year on an overwhelming and bipartisan basis.
It’s imperative that the Senate pass legislation such as this and send it to the president’s desk in short order. DREAMers cannot wait any longer, and they can’t wait for the Supreme Court to potentially issue a decision that could abruptly end their protections.
Anything less than a permanent legislative solution for DREAMers would be devastating for our entire state and a failure of leadership on behalf of those we have elected to represent us.
I encourage Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott to remember that Florida is a community that has been built by immigrants, many of whom are DACA recipients. It is their responsibility to help pass a real solution for DREAMers. I urge them to vote on behalf of all Floridians and support permanent protections now. It’s their job, not the Supreme Court’s, to do so.
Ted Hutchinson is the Florida director of FWD.us.