When I immigrated to the United States from China, I was told that America was the land of opportunity, where hard work could take you anywhere you dreamed. I took that lesson to heart, and in my current medical practice I have the privilege of working with veterans, including many who immigrated here and felt compelled to serve. I have a deep admiration for them, and for this country that has made acceptance and opportunity for all people such a core part of its values.
Unfortunately, a crucial program in America’s immigration system — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and its recipients — is in danger. Since 2012, the DACA program has protected young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation and afforded them the ability to legally live, study, and work in the United States.
The program has been a resounding success, bringing many economic and community benefits to our state and nation. However, despite these benefits, the Trump Administration rescinded the program in September 2017 and called on Congress to act. Since then, and in the face of congressional inaction, the program has been stuck in legal limbo and the Supreme Court is now set to hear oral arguments regarding the legality of the administration’s rescission of the program this November. This could result in the issuance of a decision stripping Dreamers of their protections as early as this coming January.
This would be catastrophic for the nearly 700,000 DACA recipients in the U.S., as well as their family, friends, employers, students, teachers and all those that rely on them. These applicants have submitted applications, paid fees, passed thorough background checks, and renewed their status every two years in order for the ability to work and study legally in the U.S. DACA authorized workers are fully integrated into the economy, contributing a significant amount to tax revenue and GDP. Data drawn from a Queens College report and a National Immigration Law Center survey estimates that removing all DACA authorized workers would result in a loss of $460.3 billion from the national GDP over the course of a decade.
Public opinion is also on Dreamers’ side, with 86% of Americans supporting passage of a long-term legislative solution for them. Americans from both sides of the aisle agree that these young people are important members of our communities and economies.
This past June, the House of Representative passed the American Dream and Promise Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for our nation’s Dreamers, in an overwhelming and bipartisan manner. This legislation would finally give Dreamers and those that rely on them legislative certainty.
Americans — and Alaskans — have always believed that if you work hard, nothing should stand in your way. DACA recipients have proven themselves to be valuable and productive members of our community. They are our friends, neighbors, and coworkers. We should continue to welcome them, as we have for years and as this country once did for me. It’s now up to Sen. Lisa Murkowski to continue to support Dreamers and work with her Senate colleagues to pass permanent protections for them through legislation such as the American Dream and Promise Act before the Supreme Court decides their future.
Dr. Luke Liu is an anesthesiologist based in Anchorage.
• Dr. Luke Liu is an anesthesiologist based in Anchorage.