After nearly a year of chaos, Congress has failed to move past its dysfunction and provide a way for DREAMers to legalize their status permanently. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the future of DREAMers remains tied up in courts in what seems like an endless legal ping-pong game. This tenuous fate underscores why all of us should strengthen our commitment to help these young people give back to the country they call home.
While we continue to call on Congress to resolve DREAMers’ uncertainty, federal policymakers are not the only ones who can step up. State lawmakers, employers, and institutions of higher education each can help fill the void of federal inaction by exploring new ways to help DREAMers solidify their, and our country’s, future.
Here are several actions that state elected officials, college leaders, and business owners can take to step up for DREAMers.
State lawmakers seeking to fill the vacuum should look at states like New Jersey, which recently made it easier for DREAMers to pursue higher education by removing related financial obstacles. DREAMers are ineligible for federal aid and loans and also are barred from additional state financial aid in 42 states and in-state tuition rates in 30 states.
States can also help DREAMers by addressing a host of policies, from driver’s licenses to licensing requirements for certain professions, that make a daily difference in DREAMers’ lives. Such state leadership can move us closer to the vision that all young people, regardless of where they were born, should have the opportunity to fulfill their potential, gain an education, and fully participate in their country.
Colleges and higher education leaders have been among the most consistent champions of DREAMers, delivering heartfelt testimonials about how these students enrich their campuses and calling on Congress to deliver a solution. Now, higher ed institutions can help by opening the doors to graduate and professional school more widely to account for DREAMers’ unique circumstances.
For many DREAMer graduates, their exceptional undergraduate performance would qualify them for graduate school, and many of their chosen professional paths will require advanced degrees. However, without access to federal aid and loans, paying for graduate programs will be next to impossible. More institutions of higher ed should follow the lead of institutions like Chicago Loyola Stritch School of Medicine, Claremont Graduate University and CUNY Graduate Universities.
Businesses and employers can also take actions in support of DREAMers, including exploring opportunities to sponsor their “DACAmented” employees for programs like H1-B visas; setting up a fund to help young people get started as independent contractors and business owners; and, of course, leveraging their networks to advocate for DACA to elected officials, Chambers of Commerce, and fellow business owners.
To read the full oped, please go here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/08/16/how-america-can-help-dreamers-while-congress-dithers-over-daca-column/971933002/