OPINION-DACA: Why we should care

BY BARBARA MCDONALD
GUEST COLUMNIST

As our nationwide dialog concerning Deferred Action for Childhood ArrivalsĀ (DACA) continues to unfold, we at North Hennepin Community College will continue to express our steadfast support for those affected by the elimination of this policy. NHCC is a place of hope and opportunity that welcomes all regardless of country of origin or status. We strive to create a safe learning environment supported by our values of diversity, inclusion, and respect for all who walk through our doors.
For those of you who may be less familiar with DACA, it is a Department of Homeland Security policy that allows young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain in the country. To be eligible for the program, recipients must be 30 years of age or younger as of 2012, enrolled in or graduated from school, and not have a felony conviction. DACA status lasts for two years, with the opportunity to renew. To clear up some misunderstandings, DACA recipients do not receive a path to citizenship or the right to vote, nor do they collect federal benefits like Social Security, college financial aid or food stamps. Simply put, DACA recipients came to America as a result of choices made by their parents who wanted to provide opportunities for a better life. Most of these young people have known no other home than the United States.
As an educational institution, our mission of engaging students and changing lives has no boundaries. I think most of us would agree, and research has shown, that education improves lives and communities. Having spent more than 25 years in higher education, I could share hundreds of stories of doors opening for students while pursuing their education, and more importantly, their meaningful contributions to our communities.
So why as a community member should you care about the preservation of DACA? National research shows that DACA recipients make significant contributions to the economy, including earning higher wages, which translates into higher tax revenue and economic growth that benefits all Americans. DACA recipients could be your neighbor, a co-worker, a teacher, a friend. They pay taxes, buy cars, purchase homes, and start new businesses.
In Minnesota alone, DACA has provided the opportunity for nearly 6,300 young people to live and work legally in the state. It is estimated that eliminating DACA would cost Minnesota more than $376.7 million in annual GDP losses. (http://files.www.iwj.org/resources/state-by-state-daca-fact-sheets/DACA_Fact_Sheets/Minnesota_DACA.pdf)
NHCC stands united with the colleges and universities of Minnesota State in advocating for DACA students. We are committed to working with our learners, faculty, staff, community members, and our representatives toward a long-term solution that would allow DACA recipients to remain contributing members of our vibrant communities and our economy. I invite you to join me in advocating for a positive solution for the over 800,000 young people nationally affected by the elimination of DACA, and if so moved, I urge you to reach out to our congressional and local representatives today to express your support.

Barbara McDonald is president of North Hennepin Community College