Youth leaders at Centro Hispano of Dane County and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) joined Mayor Paul Soglin to host a press conference on Tuesday afternoon to stress the urgency to keep DACA during Mayors’ National DACA Day of Action in the lobby of City-County Building.
Community members are bracing for the scenario where President Donald Trump will halt the issuance of new work permits under DACA, which would effectively phase out a program that gave hundreds of thousands of young people a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the U.S.
Speakers at the City Council Building took turns highlighting the benefits of the program stating that by allowing young immigrants to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation, the DACA program helps young people to remain active participants in local communities and to contribute to local, state and national economies.
“From Los Angeles to New York, there are cities hosting press conferences like this which are designed to shed light on DACA programs – deferred action for childhood arrivals – and why it is so important not only for the recipients and their families and the humanitarian issues that are involved … but also for our cities and our nation,” Soglin said.
Soglin went on to address some misunderstandings about DACA in the United States.
“Eighty-seven percent of those who get the benefits of DACA are employed by American businesses. Six percent have started their own businesses leading to higher wages and better economic outcomes,” Soglin said. “DACA recipients contribute 15.3 percent of their wages to taxes which fund social security and Medicare. DACA recipients are investing in assets like homes, starting those new businesses bringing significant tax revenues to our cities, counties, and states.
“It is expected that they are going to contribute $9.9 billion in tax contributions over the next four years,” he added. “And they are going to contribute $433 billion to our gross domestic product over the next decade. Let me point out that we don’t just see the benefit here in Madison and Dane County, but we’ve got some very critical industries in Wisconsin where they and other recent immigrants to this country make invaluable contributions.”
The DACA initiative was instituted under President Barack Obama and its future has been in question as part of the immigration debate under President Donald Trump.
Alondra Quechol said that this issue is not something new that people have been talking about. “For some of us, we’ve been living this for many years and the first DREAMers were our parents,” she said. “We came here for a reason – we came here to work. And we’re not taking jobs; we’re filling those jobs.”
Quechol spoke out on the behalf of DACA students who are doing great things around the country. “That [DACA] student can go on to better things and continue their education and may someday possibly figure out things that we have yet to figure out in terms of finding a cure for cancer or even someone that could be our president in the future,” she said.
“I encourage you all tonight to look at what it means to be a DACA student and what it means if that would be taken away,” she added.
Lauren Salzmann, director of programs at Centro Hispano, has worked with many DACA students throughout her 12 years at Centro.
“The kids that we work with in our Centro programs, many of them are DACA recipients and when I speak to them about why they want to do this internship or apply for a scholarship, many of them say they feel like they didn’t belong until they became DACA recipients. It wasn’t until then that they felt like their country accepted them and wanted them and respected them. For the first time, they felt like their voices were being heard.
“At Centro, we’re all about saying, ‘Si, se puede.’ Yes, you can. DACA is a way of saying, ‘Si, se puede.’ We very much hope that those in Congress will keep DACA around for the sake of our students who will become doctors, teachers, nurses, artists and will come back from their college students wanting to give back to the community that gave to them,” she added. “It comes full circle.”
Salvador Carranza, president of the Latino Education Council, said that he came out to the press conference to show his support for the DACA students. “We have 65,000 undocumented kids graduating from our high schools around the nation every year. If we don’t give these kids the opportunity to contribute to our nation, we are all poorer,” Carranza said. “As you have heard, this is extremely important to our families and our communities. We want to do this. DACA has been the first step towards making our families and our kids hard, integral parts of our communities so that they can contribute as much as they can.
“I meet and advise kids every year. These are the brightest kids,” he added. “When kids hear from our legislators and our politicians that we need more kids and more skilled workers that can contribute to this country and yet when we have a huge amount of kids that are doing exactly that – who are working hard and want to be doctors and nurses and lawyers and engineers – and we’re trying to shut the door on them … this is immoral. This is unjust. We are shooting ourselves in the foot.”