New measures help Dreamers strengthen Arizona workforce

As Congress and the president face off over immigration reform, recent developments in Arizona could help Dreamer employees and their employers.

The state announced that Dreamers can now possess a valid Arizona driver’s license, making it possible to drive to and from work.

Dreamers represent a valuable workforce in Arizona, said Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Our state has one of the nation’s largest DACA populations, about 28,000. In Arizona, more than 87 percent of DACA recipients are working and earning an average of $17 per hour, and one in five are also pursuing an advanced degree, which means that Arizona DACA recipients are major economic contributors,” Hamer said in a recent column.

Their legal status has been murky since President Donald Trump took office.

On Sept. 5, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security rescinded DACA, the Obama era program that shielded from deportation certain individuals brought to this country without documentation as children. For now, they remain safe as the question of their legal status makes its way through the courts. The issues could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court next year.

Recently, President Trump reversed his stance, promising to give Dreamers a three-year-extension with a caveat: Congress must approve $5 billion for border wall funding. Arizona congressional delegation members and state legislators called on Trump to give Dreamers a chance.

“Hundreds of thousands of young people face uncertain futures, and there is strong bipartisan support for making sure Dreamers are a permanent part of the American fabric,” Rep. Greg Stanton said. “There is a real opportunity for the president to appeal to the better angels of our nature and make finding a solution for Dreamers a top priority. I hope he takes it, and we can get something done.”

Arizona just joined 12 other states and the District of Columbia to offer driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

On Jan. 23, the Arizona Department of Transportation announced that DACA recipients and other immigrants who have an Employment Authorization Card can secure a license. The decision comes after the settlement of a lawsuit against the state in U.S. District Court.

“This is something that is long overdue. For many years, families have been struggling to get to work, drive underinsured, and DACA students have had to move to other states,” state Rep. Tony Navarrete said. Navarette represents District 30, which has one of the largest Hispanic populations in the state. “Dreamers are part of our labor force. There should be space for dignity and honor for our labor community and we should make sure we provide individuals the ability to have a work permit and the opportunity to get to and from their jobs.”

Victoria Harker

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