PERSPECTIVE: Protect Connecticut DREAMers, A Vital Part of Our Communities

by Khadija Gurnah Nearly 800,000 DREAMers -- young adults who were brought to America as children -- received critical protections and work authorization under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It provided undocumented immigrant youth with opportunities to study and participate in the workforce.

DACA has been operational for five years and it is a success. It is popular with the public and enjoys the support of employers, educators, community leaders and elected officials from both political parties.

But despite this widespread support, DACA is under attack. President Trump has not decided whether to continue or end the program, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton -- joined by attorneys general from nine other states -- is threatening to sue the Trump Administration if DACA is not rescinded by September 5th.

Ending DACA would be short-sighted and inhumane. It would directly harm roughly 5,000 people in Connecticut who have work permits under the program, and it would indirectly harm thousands more -- young people who are a dynamic part of their communities and who contribute tremendously to the strength and vitality of our state.

Nationally, rescinding DACA would be disastrous to our economy. Removing 800,000 people from the workforce nationwide would be short-sighted and harmful. It would cost the country $433.4 billion in GDP loss over a decade. It would cost employers $3.4 billion in unnecessary turnover costs. Contributions to Medicare and Social Security would be cut by $24.6 billion over a decade.

DACA recipients are employers and consumers. Some 6 percent have launched businesses that employ American citizens. Almost 55 percent have purchased a vehicle, and more than one in ten has purchased a home.

Recognizing their contributions, last month U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) took a step in the right direction when they introduced the bipartisan DREAM Act of 2017. This urgently needed legislation would provide a path to citizenship for the nearly 1.8 million DREAMers who have grown up in this country and know no other home.

They include DREAMers like Carolina Bortolleto, a Connecticut resident, a DACA recipient and an advocate who has lived in the United States since she was ten. In October 2010, Bortolleto founded Connecticut Students for a DREAM, a statewide organization of young adults who works for the rights of undocumented youth and their families.

I met Carolina at a community roundtable with U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. She is working hard to create a platform to ensure other young DREAMers have an opportunity to come out of the shadows and actively participate in the economy and the communities in the only home they've ever known. Our state is stronger, and more just, for her tireless work.

Protecting family unity, ensuring that our public policies address the concerns of immigrant women and children, and ending human rights abuses that are occurring in the name of immigration law enforcement are in our national interest. We urgently need a constructive national dialog on reforming our country’s immigration policies, so they will finally reflect our values as a nation and allow all families to contribute to our culture and economy.

That begins with passing the DREAM Act -- a smart, humane immigration policy that will strengthen our communities and our country. The incredible young people known as DREAMers are contributing to our communities and our economy. Our state and our nation will benefit tremendously if the DREAM Act becomes law and we move to permanently protect DREAMers, to give them the opportunity to build lives in the country we all call home.


Khadija Gurnah is a Campaign Director with MomsRising, an on-the-ground and online grassroots organization of more than a million people. She lives in Wallingford, Connecticut.