COMMENTARY: Dreamers still need action

The Supreme Court has issued a ruling that gives us a second chance by arguing in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and its recipients, allowing them to stay, at least temporarily, in the United States and continue contributing to our state. For years, DACA recipients, otherwise known as Dreamers, have been contributing to the Texas economy after the program was enacted in 2012 giving young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children with their families the ability to legally study and work in the United States.

Since the program’s enactment, nearly 700,000 young immigrant Dreamers and all Texans have reaped the benefits of this program. DACA recipients make essential economic and community contributions, and they account for an annual $705.2 million in federal tax contributions and $409.9 million in annual state and local tax contributions. They go to work and take care of their families and children, yet they live in constant fear that any day their lives could be turned upside down, they’d be stripped away from their life’s work, their families and the one state — the one nation — they’ve only ever known as home.

I don’t believe it’s a child’s fault for coming into the United States at the average age of 6 years old with their families. And today, they are trying to better themselves so that they can continue providing and contributing.

We don’t need more proof of their commitment than we’ve already experienced through the coronavirus pandemic. More than 200,000 DACA recipients nationwide have stepped up when they were needed most to give a hand, as caregivers, nurses, chefs, food suppliers and waste management workers — those we need every day and whom we have an extreme gratitude for through this public health crisis.

Communities across Texas have offered appreciation for our essential workers over the last few months. I’ve seen a great amount of this from my own district and am proud of their contributions. However, many have forgotten who is really behind many of these jobs — immigrants. More than 30,600 Texas DACA recipients are essential workers, including 2,800 teachers and more than 4,300 DACA healthcare workers.

While we rely on immigrants day-in and day-out, we have failed to provide them with the same certainty that they have worked so hard to achieve. And while the court ruling might be a victory, the fight is not over. It’s now up to leaders at the state level and in Congress to do what’s right to ensure our communities, families and economy succeed.

We need to be steadfast and support pro-immigrant policies that build up our communities and economies, rather than tear them down. And the recent ruling gave yet another chance to congressional leaders to finally pass permanent protections for Dreamers and build up our communities and economy. Congress should act by enacting legislation such as the American Dream and Promise Act, which passed on an overwhelming and bipartisan basis last year and that would provide much-needed protections to Texas Dreamers and certainty to all those who rely on them.

Today, we have a chance to act and I will continue fighting the good fight by advocating for proimmigrant policies that support Dreamers and the entire Texas immigrant community.

State Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, represents Texas House District 39, southeast Hidalgo County.