Congress needs to step up to protect Pa.’s Dreamers | Opinion

March 27, 2019 6:30 am

Mexico–United States barrier at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, USA. The crosses represent migrants who died in the crossing attempt. Some identified, some not. Surveillance tower in the background. WikiMedia Commons Image by Tomascastelazo.

By Wayne D. Fontana

America has always been a nation of underdogs, of people who were willing to risk everything to make a better life for themselves and their families. The huddled masses who yearned to breathe free and found that freedom here in America helped to make this country what it is, and we as a nation are better because of their contributions.

There is perhaps no one more deserving of the opportunity to pursue the American dream than the Dreamers and recipients of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS.

There are a more than 15,000 Dreamers currently living in Pennsylvania, and nearly 3,000 TPS recipients. These people have been here for years and in some cases decades, contributing not only to our economy, but to the very fabric of our communities.

They only want to build a better life for themselves and their families, but the Trump administration’s termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and TPS has placed them in jeopardy.

There is no good reason to disrupt the lives of millions of people who are productive members of American society, pose no threat to our security, and have done nothing wrong. We have already invested in the Dreamers by educating them in our schools, and they have responded by becoming vital parts of our workforce.

They work tirelessly in important industries, providing services, building our cities, and caring for our children.

In the case of TPS recipients, we are talking about people who have lived here for decades, and developed deep roots here in America.

It is estimated that there are nearly 279,200 children and grandchildren of TPS recipients who were born in the U.S., and if Congress doesn’t act to protect them, thousands of families will be split up. Additionally, an analysis by the Center for American Progress found that employers would lose nearly $1 billion if TPS recipients were to lose their ability to work here.

The fate of these people, in the America that they loyally call home, is in the hands of Congress, and we must act quickly to prevent a humanitarian and economic disaster.

Fortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced a new bill, the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, that offers Dreamers and TPS recipients the opportunity to have stability and security as they traverse a ten year path to citizenship.

Our community in Pennsylvania is enriched in so many ways by the presence of the Dreamers, TPS recipients, and their families, and the fruits of their presence are woven into the fabric of our daily lives. They have strong family and community ties throughout the Commonwealth, and we must act to protect our friends and neighbors and ensure that they will continue contributing to our communities for years to come.

As former President George W. Bush recently reminded us, “America’s immigrant history made us who we are,” and that the addition of immigrants to our communities is “a blessing and a strength.”

This is an issue that transcends politics and party.

It is about who we are as a nation, and the core values that we hold dear. I urge all of our federal lawmakers to heed the call of the better angels of our nature and move swiftly to pass the Dream and Promise Act of 2019.

State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana, a Democrat, represents the Allegheny County-based 42nd Senate District. He writes from Harrisburg.

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