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DACA, immigration reform pushed in U.S. House

Thirty-four U.S. House Republicans and a group of mayors and business and community leaders called the New American Economy say now is the time for DACA passage and immigration reform.
Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Published on December 7, 2017 9:05AM

Last changed on December 7, 2017 10:40AM

A day after 34 U.S. House Republicans urged Speaker Paul Ryan to take up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals issue before year’s end, a pro-reform group called the New American Economy held teleconferences in every state pushing DACA and comprehensive immigration reform.

The Dec. 5 GOP letter to Ryan says approximately 795,000 people who came to the U.S. illegally as children with their parents benefited from deportation deferrals, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The 34 were led by Reps. Scott Taylor, R-Va., Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., and Jeff Denham, R-Calif.

“We agree with President Trump that executive action was not the appropriate process for solving this issue, as was done under the previous administration, and we believe Congress should act,” the representatives wrote. President Barack Obama established the broader DACA program through a 2012 memorandum.

Trump has begun to phase out DACA, and it will be fully rescinded effective March 5.

The administration’s concerns were that Congress had previous rejected such a program, according to the Department of Homeland Security website.

“...(I)ndividuals could apply for deferred action if they had come to the U.S. before their 16th birthday; were under age 31; had continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007; and were in school, graduated or had obtained a certificate of completion from high school, obtained a General Educational Development certificate, or were an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States,” the website states. “Significantly, individuals were ineligible if they had been convicted of a felony or a significant misdemeanor, but were considered eligible even if they had been convicted of up to two other misdemeanors.”

Immediate action is needed because with each passing day more DACA recipients lose their permits, the GOP letter states. Republicans hope that passing DACA as part of a budget bill before the end of the year will garner some Democratic support for the spending plan.

New American Economy is a bipartisan group of more than 500 mayors and community and business leaders seeking immigration reform. As part of its iMarch for Immigration campaign, the group released a report Dec. 6 presenting immigrant statistics in all 50 states based on public and private data. It shows California leading the nation with 10.5 million immigrants, 2.3 million of which are illegal. Washington is in 10th place with slightly over 1 million immigrants, 237,935 of which are illegal.

“The Washington agricultural industry has had labor shortages over the past several years. All indications are it will get worse unless something is done,” Mike Gempler, executive director of the Washington Growers League, Yakima, said in the Washington state teleconference.

The industry is dependent on immigrant workers but increasing border and interior enforcement is restricting supply, he said.

“We need solutions before this problem disrupts our ability to do business,” Gempler said.

The Growers League, representing employers on labor issues, has long favored comprehensive immigration reform that gives legal status to illegal workers in the U.S. and improves foreign guestworker programs to assure the future flow of legal, skilled workers, Gempler said.

DACA is a matter of “basic fairness,” he said.

Jon Wyss, past president of the Okanogan County Farm Bureau and government affairs director of Gebbers Farms, a large tree fruit company, highlighted the NAE report’s statistics showing immigrants pay $10.4 billion in taxes and spend $27 billion in Washington. Immigrants work in agriculture, construction, landscape, nursing and other sectors, he said.

Wyss and Gempler said they are optimistic of DACA passage by year’s end, which will be a catalyst for immigration reform.


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