Immigration legislation in Washington, D.C.

Immigration legislation in Washington, D.C.

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce joined business groups across the state last week in publicly urging Congress to pass the Dream Act before current protections expire for immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors.

The chamber and 19 other business groups representing a collective 15,000 employers held a telephone and digital press conference call to highlight a letter they sent last month to House Speaker Paul Ryan, D-Wis., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and other members of the California congressional delegation. The letter urged passage in the House of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly known as the Dream Act.

Chamber Chief Executive Gary Toebben said during the conference call that there are roughly 60,000 so-called “dreamers” in Los Angeles County, an estimated 90 percent of them are employed, and most of them are still in school. He also said that more than half of the entrepreneurs who start businesses in the county are immigrants, with many of those coming to the country prior to turning 18.

“Our member employers dread the prospect of (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids on those workers who came here when they were very young and who have spent most of their lives here,” Toebben said. “The thought that those young people would be targeted would be a blow to our business owners.”

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Sept. 5 rescinding a memorandum by former President Barack Obama that established protections for immigrants who came to this country as children under the age of 18. Trump, while announcing the action, urged Congress to pass stricter immigration measures in exchange for permanently protecting minors brought into the country.

This particular segment of immigrants, known as “dreamers,” will be subject to deportation to their countries of origin if legislation is not passed by March 4.

– Howard Fine

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