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Spending bill must include DACA compromise

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence look on during a meeting with Congressional leadership including House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Charles Schumer in the Oval Office of the White House on Dec. 7. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

On Nov. 28, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping the government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”

With a curious tendency for inexplicable capitalizations, the President of the United States exclaims, demeans, stereotypes, minimizes, disempowers and broadly criminalizes people with this tweet, probably because he was reluctant to attend a meeting where he knew he would be forced to defend his unsecured position.

At the meeting, Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had planned to drive home the point to the president that he needed to make quick provisions to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients — also called “Dreamers” — from being deported. The DACA program is set to expire on March 5, 2018. If some sort of amnesty is not facilitated before that day, 800,000 men and women will be left bereft with no place to call home.

An overwhelming 86 percent of Americans — and 76 percent of Republicans — support giving Dreamers a path to residency in the U.S., without fear of deportation. Earlier, on Sept. 13, President Trump himself stated: “We want to see if we can do something with regard to immigration with regard to the 800,000 people that are young people … But we want to see if we can do something in a bipartisan fashion so that we can solve the DACA problem.”

Yet, with his November tweet, Trump disingenuously assigned the DACA program to a costly and illegal framework, thereby subverting any collaborative discussion on the subject.

From left, Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system, California State Sen. Scott Wiener and Microsoft Assistant General Counsel Jack Chen participate in a panel discussion about DACA on Nov. 28. (Jaya Padmanabhan/Special to S.F. Examiner)

On the same day of the President’s mean-spirited tweet, I attended a panel discussion on the uncertain future ahead for Dreamers and the tech industry. There was a diverse array of names participating in the discussion, including Janet Napolitano, one of the original drafters of the DACA program and the current president of the University of California system, as well as state Sen. Scott Wiener, Jack Chen, assistant general counsel for Microsoft, and Ron Conway, founder of SV Angel, co-founder of FWD.us and sf.citi board chair.

“I still remember June 15, 2012, when the DACA memo was published, and there was a buzz of electricity in our hallway at the notion that there was something that was finally moving,” Chen reminisced, paying his respects to Napolitano’s incredible role in drafting the original Obama-era legislation.

There is no way we will be able to gather resources to enact a mass deportation come March, according to Chen, so why not get Congress to put this issue to rest and proceed to allocate resources where attention is deserved: job creation.

According to a World Economic Forum report, global interconnectivity creates significant economic transformations from job creation to job displacement. It would be remarkably tough for America to prepare for a rapidly evolving jobs landscape on its own, as upheld by Trump’s “America First” agenda.

“‘America First’ gets translated into ‘America alone’ — America by itself — but we live in a globalized economy,” Napolitano said. “Capital flows around the world, creativity knows no borders and the notion of artificially limited entrepreneurial investment in the United States, because of its source, again, seems to me to be a job-killer not a job-creator.”

Wiener took the argument further by declaring that the Bay Area is the driver of America’s national economy because of “immigration and immigrants who come here, build businesses and innovate and create wealth not just for themselves but for many people.” He went on to remark that if Trump’s policies prevail, they’re going to do enormous damage to the economy.

The economic benefits of passing the Dream Act means that $22.7 billion will be added to our GDP, and there will be between an $82 to $273 raise in average incomes of all Americans annually, according to FWD.us.

Conversely, if all 800,000 Dreamers are removed from the workforce, the U.S. will lose $460 billion from the GDP every year, and we will lose 1,400 jobs every single business day for the next two years. There’s also the immeasurable cost of psychological and emotional chaos in our society.

After reading Trump’s tweet on Nov. 28, Schumer and Pelosi skipped the meeting that day. It was a tactical mistake on their parts. Whatever the tweets, tweaks and provocations, our elected representatives must resist withdrawing from discussions where there is much to be gained. They are our voices, our seats at the table, no matter how dysfunctional the discourse. Our representatives owe us their presence as they bear witness to the carryings-on of Congress.

Wearing a “We Are All Dreamers” T-shirt, Conway urged attendees of the panel to “get pissed off” and call their representatives in Congress to make sure that some form of DACA restitution is included in the year-end spending bill, to prevent a government shutdown — a bill which is now due on Dec. 22.

As I write this, House Speaker Paul Ryan has just announced that Dreamers won’t be part of the spending bill. There is still a week or so before the deadline. Let’s heed Conway’s advice and be a part of the process. Let’s pick up our phones and make that call.

Jaya Padmanabhan can be reached at jaya.padmanabhan@gmail.com. Twitter: @jayapadmanabhan. In Brown Type covers immigrant issues in San Francisco.

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