Arizona business leaders stress need for pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients

PHOENIX – Two top level Arizona business leaders on Friday discussed the economic impact of “DREAMers” in Arizona and the importance of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

In a news briefing via conference call, they also highlighted a new national poll indicating the potential for bipartisan compromise on issues such as border security and a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.

President Donald Trump on Friday signed a new spending bill, just hours after he sent a series of early morning tweets in which he blamed Democrat leadership for the failure of not reforming the Obama-era DACA program. He had threatened to veto the bill because it did not adequately address border wall funding and did not offer protections for DACA recipients.

Although the spending bill doesn’t include provisions protecting DREAMers – the estimated 800,000 people who were brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children – it does allocate about $1.6 billion in border security, a figure Trump said still is too low.

Before Trump signed the bill, Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, told reporters he supported a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers.

“This is a win-win, let’s get something done now,” Hamer said. “Not only is it the right thing to do morally … but it also makes the most sense economically. DACA recipients are contributing to every facet of Arizona and the nation’s economic and civic life, education, the military and the private sector.”

Hamer and Jerry Fuentes, president of AT&T Arizona and New Mexico, spoke about the importance of DACA recipients in the workforce and the compromise between immigration reform and border security.

The poll addressed the same issues and indicated overwhelming support among participants for an increase in Border Patrol funding and border security in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers.

More than 400 people were surveyed, with nearly 80 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents saying they support extending citizenship to DACA recipients. The poll was released by the New American Economy, a bipartisan organization that advocates for stronger border security and immigration equity, and Target Point, a market research firm.

Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T employ DACA recipients and other foreign-born residents, and some employers believe that limiting those job opportunities could hurt the economy.

“AT&T is looking to expand right here in Arizona, and we will need a quality pool of workers to choose from, and DACA and other foreign-born workers should be part of that pool of candidates,” Fuentes said. “I don’t think anyone can dispute the impacts that dreamers and foreign-born residents have on our economy, our jobs and most importantly, future business growth.”

The two business leaders said they believe it’s important for Arizona’s financial future that a solution to the DACA dilemma comes sooner rather than later.

“Each and every day, they are making a positive contribution to our state’s economy,” Hamer said. “For the health of the state’s economy, it’s absolutely imperative that we, as soon as possible, get a permanent congressional resolution on the DACA issue that includes a pathway to citizenship.”

After failing to pass the DREAM Act, which would have given eligible immigrants a pathway to citizenship, President Barack Obama signed DACA into effect in 2012, not as a law, but as an executive order. The policy was rescinded in September under the Trump administration, which gave Congress until March to come up with a permanent solution. Courts intervened, and the deadline has come and gone.

The decision left just more than 28,000 DACA recipients in Arizona, and 1 million nationwide uncertain about their futures in the United States.

James Garcia, spokesman for the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said DREAMers are contributing members of society and should be treated as such.

“The state’s DACA recipients add hundreds of millions of dollars to our state’s economy each year, and that figure doesn’t even count DACA-eligible young people,” he said. “The vast majority of DREAMers, including those who have DACA, are either in school or working, many work as professionals and a substantial number have even started their own businesses.”

Hamer said the new polling is significant because it shows there are conservatives who support a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and dreamers.

“The most comparative advantage of the United States of America is that the best, the brightest and hardest working people on planet Earth want to come here and contribute to the American economy,” Hamer said.

“My one word to these individuals would be: ‘Welcome.'”

Connect with us on Facebook.