President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced plans to rescind the Obama-era policy that allowed young undocumented immigrants to stay and work in the country without fear of deportation and called on Congress to find a solution within the next six months.
There are already significant doubts whether Congress can pass a bill establishing the legal status of some 800,000 so-called dreamers that were granted broad protection under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Congress also isn’t likely to pass just DACA without some sort of add-ons.
Alaska’s congressional delegation universally called for work to begin on immigration reform, but only Sen. Lisa Murkowski was clear that dreamers should be allowed to remain in the United States.
“I have a firmly held principle that we should not punish children for the actions of their parents,” she said in a prepared statement. “I believe those who were brought to this country by their parents, raised here, educated here, lived here, and dreamed here, should be welcomed to stay here. They should have the right to work and a path to citizenship. That is why I have consistently cosponsored legislation to provide those things, and am heartened to see so many diverse voices supporting a legislative solution for the Dreamers. I am ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to provide a legal, certain path forward for these children of our friends and neighbors.”
The other two members of Alaska’s congressional delegation released statements that generally applauded Trump’s decision to rescind the program. Both Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young lashed at Obama’s decision to implement the program without congressional approval.
“The Obama administration’s unilateral actions on immigration, including DACA, undermined the role of Congress and were in complete violation of the Constitution,” Young said. “President Obama stated on numerous occasions that he did not have the power or authority to take additional actions on immigration, yet he did so after Congress chose not to deliver what he wanted, when he wanted.”
Both called on Congress to work on some kind of immigration overhaul, but unlike Murkowski neither explicitly said any protections of DACA should be maintained. Young said work should address “the legal status of those who were brought to our nation through no fault of their own.”
Sullivan shared a similar feeling, noting that many dreamers “are hardworking, law-abiding members of our communities.”
“Going forward, in addition to securing our border, it is important to keep in mind that the beneficiaries of the DACA program came to our country as children through no fault of their own,” he wrote. “Most are hardworking, law-abiding members of our communities, including hundreds in Alaska. I intend to work with Republicans and Democrats to address these particular immigration cases through legislation both with compassion and a respect for the rule of law.”
Few dreamers in Alaska
According to the latest quarterly report from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there are 138 individuals in Alaska who’ve been approved for protection under DACA, putting Alaska near the bottom of states with a DACA population.
Still, it hasn’t stopped the group from contributing to the state’s economy. The left-leaning Center for American Progress estimates that removing those 138 DACA recipients from Alaska would result in a roughly $8.5 million loss in GDP for the state. Overall, the group estimates the country would lose about $460 billion in GDP by removing protections for the nearly 800,000 DACA individuals. The Center for American Progress estimates about 87 percent of DACA recipients are employed, which is based on an October 2016 survey of recipients—and have a similar skill distribution to the general work force.