Dream Work Makes the American Team Work

Dream Work Makes the American Team Work
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The decision by the White House to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, giving Congress 6 months to find a suitable alternative leaves more than 800,000 people effectively stateless facing the specter of deportation. DACA as originally envisioned by the Obama Administration, created a pathway out of the shadows in the spirit of not visiting the sins of the parents or guardians on their children. Today, however, millions of Americans, those who claim this land by birth right and those who lay claim through no choice of their own, are questioning the moral compass of a country built on the backs of immigrants. This economic reality applied as much to the foundation of this exceptional country as it does today.

Virtually every American carries an identifier or adjective linking them to another country or culture. And whether you are an African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Native American or Irish American, the repeal of DACA should be repudiated as cruel and decidedly un-American. Today, and in the 6 months to come while Congress’ deliberation horizon looms, each of us is a Dreamer. Indeed, dreaming, economic aspirations and a sense of possibility are among the most enduring American values. These qualities not only drive the world’s motivation to live the “American Dream,” however fleeting it may seem, they are one of the most efficient pistons in our economic engine.

Steve Jobs, arguably the world’s greatest entrepreneur, was a Dreamer. The son of a Syrian immigrant father and a Swiss American mother who gave him up for adoption, Jobs’ marvelous creation in Apple and his Midas touch with Pixar, has added hundreds of thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy and hundreds of billions in economic value that would have never existed without him daring to dream. Indeed, while Steve Jobs is an iconoclastic leader with his enduring legacy, major firms founded by immigrants or their children is not an exception, but rather a rule. In fact, 40% of the Fortune 500 fall into this category having been founded by immigrants or their children. Each of these exceptional entrepreneur’s and CEO’s are Dreamers and the U.S. is the tableau and greatest beneficiary when they set their imaginations free. Mercifully, proving that values matter most when it is least convenient, this economic reality was not lost on the business sector, which was quick to rebuke the today’s rash decision.

What underpins the success of these firms, and the rest of the Fortune 500 for that matter, is a U.S. economy that is engaged with the world and creates upward mobility irrespective of race, creed, sexual orientation or national origin. Indeed, the fastest way to shut down Silicon Valley and every other sector from agricultural to manufacturing, is to continue vilifying the world’s best, brightest and most resilient. These people come to the U.S. expecting nothing other than to stand on the shoulders of their forbearers to reach the bottom rung of our slippery economic ladder. There is no safety net if you fall – a lesson that is well known to all immigrants (legal or otherwise) and one that is increasingly being learned by the rest of us.

The timing of this announcement (and through a proxy no less), comes as millions of Americans are in the line of sight of hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, and as Houston, our 4th largest and most diverse city begins the slow recovery from hurricane Harvey. Harvey, Irma and bad policy are equally indiscriminate in punishing all sides of the political and social aisle – but only the latter can forever tarnish who we are. Beyond the economic dependencies on immigration, the move to rescind DACA will also erode national security. Dreamers brought into the light of U.S. society register with the Department of Homeland Security, undergo extensive background checks, serve in the military and are effectively good citizens in every respect. This move will make the type of human intelligence that law enforcement relies on harder to come around, by effectively turning DACA registries into a veritable immigration hit list for which communities will go silent and return to the shadows.

Clearly, immigration reform is a national priority . However, heavy-handed immigration policies that prey on the most vulnerable, erode our economic competitiveness, national security and value system are not in our collective interest – any more than building border walls when our bridges and schools are failing. Neither is a country that descends into political tribalism and balkanization, as cities, business and states draw up their legal challenges to DACA’s repeal. Perhaps the most important opportunity created by this sad decision, is the chance to show the world that the American Dream is still alive and that citizens will demand Congress to vigorously defend it.

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