Mr. President, I rise today, along with so many of my colleagues, with regard to the DACA.  We are here to oppose President Trump’s unnecessary, political, and damaging decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – popularly known as DACA.   To close the door to the American Dream for nearly 800,000 people who are American in every way but on paper goes against every measure of sound public policy, productive economics, and basic decency.  Today, I join my colleagues in Congress, hundreds of American business executives, thousands of higher education officials and faith leaders, and a majority of the American people who have made their voices heard over the past few days to denounce President Trump’s elimination of DACA, and call for legislative action to protect dreamers and provide them a realistic and responsible pathway to citizenship.   

We must be absolutely clear about what President Trump has done, on his own, without any need or, in my view, legal requirement to do so.  By his choice, in less than six months, the Administration will begin forcing hundreds of thousands of dreamers, many in their twenties and thirties, out of their jobs, out of our military, out of our schools, and out of the United States – the only country that most of them have ever really known.  It is true that dreamers were brought here as children outside the appropriate processes, but this was through no decision or fault of their own.  Since then, they have pursued higher education, started families, worked hard and paid taxes, and stayed out of serious trouble with the law.  Some have served honorably in the Armed Forces, and put their lives on the line to keep all of us safe.  We gain nothing, and lose a great deal, by separating these young people from their jobs, homes, spouses, and children, and sending them to countries they hardly know.     

At no point in our debates over immigration have we found a good reason to spend our limited immigration enforcement resources on dreamers. The premise of DACA was, and continues to be, that we need permanent, comprehensive immigration reform—but until then, dreamers who contribute to our society should be allowed to come out of the shadows and lead healthy, productive lives.

Rather than pursuing these young Americans, our immigration enforcement resources should focus on practical measures that make us safe, not wasteful and symbolic projects like a border wall.  We should improve surveillance of the border and apprehensions of more illegal entrants.  We should incentivize legal immigration and make it feasible for people to come here and pursue better opportunities.  I am eager to work with my colleagues to craft a tough but fair, and comprehensive immigration reform package that incorporates good ideas from both sides of the aisle. Until then, however, we accomplish nothing by forcing hundreds of thousands of families to live in fear, and regret ever trusting our country enough to register for DACA in the first place. 

Too much of this debate is driven by President Trump’s apparent refusal to accept basic truths about who his actions affect and what his decisions mean for our country.  His Administration’s rhetoric suggests that deporting dreamers will make us safer, and somehow restore the rule of “law and order.”  But these are the facts of the matter: first, today, unauthorized immigration continues to decline as it has every year since its peak in 2007.  Second – and not without controversy – President Obama’s Administration deported a record five million undocumented immigrants, particularly violent felons.  These were important steps, but we have learned that enforcement alone doesn’t solve practical problems for people like dreamers, and their families and employers.

Moreover, deporting dreamers does nothing to make us safer.  Dreamers qualified for DACA precisely because they haven’t committed serious crimes, and conflating them with criminals only feeds the false premise that immigrants are prone to criminality, when all the evidence shows the opposite is true.  In fact, studies from the National Bureau of Economic Research and the conservative Cato Institute have concluded that immigrants tend to commit fewer crimes than people born in the United States, and U.S. Census data shows that, among adult males, immigrants are one-half to one-fifth as likely to be incarcerated here. 

 Just as insidious is the persistent myth that dreamers are somehow harming our economy or taking jobs from American citizens.  We can, and should, debate what kind of immigration reform would best support our economy, but there is no credible support for the argument that dreamers harm our economy or that deporting them would create jobs for anyone.  The fact is that, according to the Center for American Progress, ending DACA would result in an estimated loss of over $460 billion from our GDP over the next decade, including an annual loss of over $60 million per year in my home state of Rhode Island.  We know from experience that deporting employed immigrants doesn’t raise wages – in fact, many jobs lost tend to go unfilled.  And, because of President Trump’s actions, families of dreamers will sit at their kitchen tables in the coming months and struggle needlessly with questions of how to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads now that the Administration has forced mom or dad out of work, or out of the country. These are American families, and doing this to them is the opposite of putting America first.

Mr. President, it is our responsibility to protect our country from economic harm and to uphold our ideals and commitments, and that means keeping faith with dreamers and their families.  We should put ourselves in their shoes, and remember how each of our families came to this nation and worked to achieve the American Dream for themselves and their children.  I applaud Senators Graham and Durbin for introducing the bipartisan DREAM Act of 2017, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this important legislation on our way to a meaningful debate on comprehensive immigration reform.   

I hope that we can find the will to come together and swiftly pass this legislation to strengthen our nation, to keep our economy growing, and to keep faith in our best ideals.  With that, Mr. President, I would yield the floor, and I would note the absence of a quorum.