Colo. chambers of commerce back Dreamers protection

Author: Mark Harden - April 12, 2018 - Updated: April 20, 2018

In this Jan. 21, 2018, file photo, demonstrators rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) outside the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

A letter to leaders of Congress Thursday signed by more than 50 chambers of commerce across the nation — including some from Colorado — urges passage of legislation to protect “Dreamers.”

The Colorado chambers that signed the letter include the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Asian Chamber of Commerce of Colorado and the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce.

The letter refers to Dreamers — immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children before 2007 who often have no memory of their birth countries, and who were eligible to stay here under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, established by former President Barack Obama. About 800,000 people enrolled in the DACA program, and the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that 1.3 million met the criteria for DACA and could have applied.

President Donald Trump last September announced a plan to rescind the DACA program as part of a broader call to crack down on illegal immigration. The courts have held up implementation of the phase-out.

The letter says:

“As business leaders representing our nation’s most important industries and regional economies, we are committed to promoting economic growth and job creation for all Americans. From manufacturing to agriculture, and from Main Street to Fortune 500 companies, the U.S. economy relies on our diverse, talented workforce to drive the country forward. That is why we are calling on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to create permanent protections for Dreamers. These protections would allow young immigrants in our communities and across the country to continue to pursue their education, contribute to our labor force and tax base, and start new businesses that create jobs.”

The letter was sent under the umbrella of New American Economy, a group representing hundreds of business leaders and mayors backing immigration reforms.

The group estimates that Dreamers earn $19.98 million in combined income annually and pay $3 billion in taxes.

Other chambers of commerce that signed the letter, from 23 states, include those in Boston, Dallas, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco and St. Louis.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which did not sign the letter, also has called for congressional action to protect Dreamers.

Many business interests back immigration reform, warning that constraints on immigrant labor hurt the economy. But Trump and his backers argue that a supply of cheap immigrant labor pushes down wages and costs some Americans their jobs.

The Denver Metro Chamber has long argued for protections for Dreamers.

Chamber CEO Kelly Brough had this to say last September when Trump announced his plan to end DACA:

“The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce board of directors took a position in 2012 to support a path to citizenship for young people who came to Colorado before they were 18 years old. With today’s historically low rates of unemployment, the rationale for taking that position is more relevant than ever. Our members believe all Coloradans should have the opportunity to work and contribute in the country they have long called home – the United States of America. Our smart, healthy, diverse workforce is our competitive advantage, so we’re shocked that anyone would consider turning away 1.3 million kids eager to continue their studies, find jobs and contribute to our economy.”

Mark Harden

Mark Harden

Mark Harden is managing editor of Colorado Politics. He previously was news director at the Denver Business Journal; city editor, online news editor, state editor, national editor and popular music critic at The Denver Post; and an editor and reporter at newspapers in the Seattle area and San Francisco.