The New Jersey Business & Industry Association on Monday testified in support of a resolution, SR-143, sponsored by Sen. Nellie Pou, (D-Passaic), that urges Congress to protect the now-grown children of illegal immigrants, as well as the future of the state’s economy, by codifying the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“The DACA program has enabled 22,000 young adults in New Jersey, who were brought here by their parents as children, with the opportunity to legally work, pay taxes and support this state’s economy,” NJBIA Vice President for Government Affairs Frank Robinson told the Senate State Government Committee. “NJBIA supports this resolution not only because it is good for New Jersey business, but also because it is simply the right thing to do.”

Robinson introduced the committee to his NJBIA colleague, Daniela Velez, 24, one of the hundreds of thousands of people who were brought to the U.S. as minors and later approved under a 2012 U.S. immigration policy for a two-year deferral on deportation and a two-year renewable work permit. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security rescinded that immigration policy known as DACA in September, but delayed implementation until March 2018.

Velez, who was born in Venezuela and brought to the U.S. as a child of 9, said that under DACA, she was able to legally work in the U.S., pay taxes, obtain a driver’s license and enroll part-time at Rutgers University where she pays her tuition without any government loans or financial aid. (DACA does not allow federal tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.)

Velez’s current work permit expires in June 2019. However, if Congress does not act to codify the DACA program, Velez said she will then be deported to Venezuela and lose the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen, earn the MBA and Ph.D. she dreams of, and grow the small business she has started that provides lab kits to college students who are taking classes online.

“If nothing happens, I lose everything I’ve worked for and face deportation,” Velez said. “There are so many opportunities DACA has given me and I think that people don’t know that once this is gone I lose everything—my home, my job, my dreams for higher education and my business.”

According to SR-143, the loss of DACA protections will have a significant impact on the state’s economy, including the loss of considerable tax revenue. The resolution states that 87 percent of New Jersey’s 22,000 DACA recipients are working adults who contribute $66 million in state and local taxes.

The resolution was released by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism, & Historic Preservation Committee and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

 

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