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San Diego Chamber Urges Congress To Pass Dream Act Before New Year

San Diego immigrant and education leaders, as well as elected officials, join...

Photo by Megan Burks

Above: San Diego immigrant and education leaders, as well as elected officials, join for a press conference to speak out against the Trump administration's decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, Sept. 5, 2017.

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce joined business advocates across the state Tuesday in calling on Congress to pass the Dream Act before the end of the year. The measure would chart a path to citizenship for the hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth in limbo after President Donald Trump ended a program in September that shielded them from deportation.

In a press briefing, chamber president Jerry Sanders and his colleagues in the Regional Economic Association Leaders Coalition of California said the state's congressional delegates have a moral obligation to pass the act — and they can’t afford not to.

“We think it’s incredibly important to the economy,” Sanders said, adding that the chamber also wants to see comprehensive immigration reform. “A lot of jobs are taken by Dreamers, who we wouldn’t be able to replace any other way. We also think it’s important for families.

“We’re talking about children who had no say where they were going to be brought or anything else, and just to deport them to a foreign country — because that’s what it would be for them — that’s just not American,” he continued.

RELATED: San Diego Schools Double Down On Assurances For Students Following DACA Decision

The Center for American Progress estimates California has 188,000 workers who were recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. The progressive think tank says the state would lose $11.3 billion a year if Congress or Trump do not find a way to extend their legal status.

In San Diego, Sanders said, that equates to about a third of the workforce and a quarter of the region’s gross domestic product.

Trump called on Congress to pass legislation offering DACA recipients a path toward citizenship by March. He then struck a deal with Democrats that hastened the timeline. Trump would get the Democratic votes he needs on a federal budget if he signs the Dream Act without funding for the border wall.

RELATED: It’s ‘DACA Week’ At California Community Colleges

A more restrictive bill from Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch has also been considered, as has delaying any decision on Dreamers until early next year.

The California coalition says the time for a bipartisan solution, however, is now. It’s lobbying the state’s Congressional delegates and urging residents to call their representatives.

Sanders said the chamber has spoken with all of San Diego’s representatives and believes four out of five are likely to vote in favor of the Dream Act.

A third of San Diego’s workforce is made up of immigrants, and they’re responsible for about a quarter of the region’s gross domestic product, according to the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.


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