What to do with Dreamers? Keep them here.By Mike Feinberg (op-ed)
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Adriana first came to Houston from Mexico with her parents when she was 4. Her dad sought work as a plumber, and her mom struggled to care for her brother with a debilitating illness. She enrolled at a KIPP public charter school.
Though she dreamed then of attending the University of Texas at Austin and working as a professional in the business world, one thing stood in her way: her lack of legal residency.
Thanks to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order created by the Obama administration in 2012, Adriana was able to obtain a Social Security number and graduate from UT this spring with a degree in international relations and a job offer as a management consultant at a Fortune 500 company.
But, because the Trump administration announced in September that DACA would be rescinded, Adriana and approximately 800,000 other Dreamers, including 35,000 in Houston and 110,000 in Texas, are living in fear of what their lives will look in the new year.
For now, Dreamers must put their ambitions on hold. Adriana is stuck in financial limbo and facing many difficult questions. Should she buy a car and sign a lease for a new apartment?
Or instead begin preparing to leave the only country she has ever known?
It is now up to Congress to determine their fate before DACA comes to an abrupt halt in early March. As the co-founder of the KIPP Houston public charter school network, I am committed to finding a solution for Adriana and the other Dreamers who are working hard and contributing to our city.
Their drive to succeed is an endless source of inspiration as they pursue college degrees and careers in tech, business, education, medicine and more. Since KIPP’s founding, we have promised every child who enrolls that we will help them reach their highest potential. This is not just KIPP’s mission; it’s also the law of the land. The Supreme Court ruled more than 30 years ago that public schools are required to teach all children, whether they are legal citizens or not.
But without permanent Congressional legislative action, some 1,700 Dreamers a day will begin losing the ability to learn, live, work and stay in America. And that means numerous businesses each of those days will lose valuable employees.
That could mean bad news for our economy. Without Dreamers working, shopping and paying taxes, economists estimate that our national gross domestic project (GDP) would decline by $433 billion during the next decade and contributions to Social Security and Medicare would go down by billions more.
The good news is that bipartisan energy is growing on Capitol Hill to reach a compromise and create a permanent solution for these young people who were brought to the United States when they were children. On Nov. 29, Rod Paige, former Houston ISD superintendent and U.S. Education Secretary under President George W. Bush, and I joined a bipartisan group of business leaders and educators in Washington, D.C., to press Congress to forge a policy solution for Dreamers.
Along with Secretary Paige, all five past U.S. Secretaries of Education – including both Republicans and Democrats – have offered their unequivocal endorsement for a bipartisan approach to keep Dreamers in the country.
Houstonians showed great unity when we came together in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and I know we can rally again on behalf of Dreamers.
We must keep our promise to Dreamers, who represent the best of what America stands for: With effort and perseverance, anything is possible. I hope you will join me in encouraging our representatives in Congress to act now. Every day Congress stalls, hope slips further away and chaos looms closer.
Mike Feinberg is the co-founder of KIPP.