A path to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S. has been debated for decades. The urgency has never been more clear that it is right now. Unfortunately, however, with midterm elections around the corner, any meaningful discussion on immigration reform will likely fall onto the “talk later” list. But lives and the economy can no longer wait for “later.” Entrepreneurs who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, specifically, are a category of people who can help boost the U.S. economy. Here’s an example of one of my clients capable of doing just that.
Andrew came to the U.S. as a child in the early 2000’s and started his own trucking company around 2005. In 2012, he successfully obtained DACA status.
He operates in a relatively rural, agricultural area and transports products across the country. He also helps local farmers distribute their crops and produce to major retailers. Andrew’s company employs about 20 full-time workers and several contractors. At present, the company is valued at almost $2 million.
He is well respected within the business community. His clients include companies with instantly recognizable names. He is a competent and accomplished entrepreneur.
Andrew is also involved in community and volunteer work. A church-going man of faith, he lives with his wife and three minor children. He embodies all the recognizable marks of a good citizen.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the type of work Andrew does was something we largely took for granted. Products showed up on the grocery store shelves when and in the quantities we needed them, and we thought little about the process that made that possible.
But the pandemic exposed the importance of every link in the supply chain. From cars and car parts to baby formula and computer goods, the supply of consumer products across the board are feeling the pinch.
While there are many domestic and international reasons for shortages of everything, the trucking industry remains a key and vital part of the system. And it is facing an uphill battle.
In November 2021, the New York Times reported that the U.S. is short 80,000 truckers, a number set to double in 2030. Think about our supply chain problem doubling as well, and you will begin to see why people like Andrew are such an important part of the solution.
Like most DACA recipients, Andrew wanted to find a way to make his status more secure and permanent, and I explored every visa option and every waiver that might be available to someone in his position.
Working with many startup companies, I pride myself in finding the best visa option for my clients, particularly for entrepreneurs. I often wake up in the middle of the night with a bright-light moment for how to solve some complex visa puzzle.
But in the end, the law is what it is, and my hands are often tied, preventing me from being able to help the people I want so badly to see succeed. Without immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, there is no legal trick or magic wand that can help people like Andrew become a legal permanent resident or a U.S citizen.
A New American Economy report shows that there are more than 1.2 million DACA-eligible residents in the United States. They had a total household income of almost $24 billion.
In 2015, a total of 37,813 of them — people like Andrew — owned their own businesses, with a combined income of $658.7 million. No doubt that number had risen significantly in the seven years since the report was published.
John Feinblatt, president of New American Economy, said, “Dreamers are job creators. They strengthen businesses and start their own at a high rate — further proof that keeping Dreamers here and hard at work makes economic sense for America.”
It certainly does.
At a time when our immigration system is completely broken, and the economy continues to struggle, we must look to legal and policy infrastructures to get us back on track. Immigration reform in general and a path to citizenship specifically are necessary so that entrepreneurs like Andrew can remain in this country, continue to grow their businesses and create jobs and thrive — to the benefit of our economy.
Tahmina Watson is the founding attorney of Watson Immigration Law in Seattle, where she practices US immigration law focusing on business immigration. She has been blogging about immigration law since 2008 and has written numerous articles in many publications. She is the author of Legal Heroes in the Trump Era: Be Inspired. Expand Your Impact. Change the World and The Startup Visa: Key to Job Growth and Economic Prosperity in America. She is also the founder of The Washington Immigrant Defense Network (WIDEN), which funds and facilitates legal representation in the immigration courtroom, and co-founder of Airport Lawyers, which provided critical services during the early travel bans. Tahmina is regularly quoted in the media and is the host of the podcast Tahmina Talks Immigration. She is a Puget Sound Business Journal 2020 Women of Influence honoree. Business Insider recently named her as one of the top immigration attorneys in the U.S. that help tech startups. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter at @tahminawatson.
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