Increasing state training for DACA recipients in Georgia strengthens the workforce

Our guest commentator says Georgia DACA recipients should pay the same tuition fees as other Georgians, as suggested in a bill from Rep. Kasey Carpenter. In this 2020 photo, people celebrate in front of the Supreme Court after the Supreme Court abandoned President Donald Trump’s plans to dissolve DACA. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

As new executive and congressional leaderships take on responsibility with the aim of revitalizing our country’s immigration system, we need to recognize at the local level how immigration can boost the communities and economy of Georgia. In this way, we can take advantage of growth and prosperity opportunities that are particularly important for post-pandemic reconstruction.

Our response to COVID-19 has relied heavily on key employees. From doctors and nurses to plumbing workers, farmers and teachers, key workers have risked their lives to provide basic services to our communities. This includes more than 23 million immigrant key workers. Here in Georgia, the industries run every day with foreign-born individuals who make up nearly 10% of all nurses, 18% of health workers, 31% of building technicians, and 53% of personal care services.

While millions of people still grapple with the financial hardships of the pandemic, education remains a top priority. It is rightly important to create a talented workforce. But some young Georgia immigrants who only know Georgia as home do not have access to state tuition, which prevents them from participating in our work.

Fortunately, lawmakers at Georgia House understand the imminent threat to our workforce and have recognized an opportunity to better equip talented and skilled young immigrants with the tools to realize their dreams and participate in our economy.

A bill tabled by State Representative Kasey Carpenter, a Republican from Dalton, proposes providing fair and equitable higher education opportunities to young Georgia immigrants, primarily DACA beneficiaries, so that they can and help fill the skill gap us building a wealthy workforce while ensuring sustainable economic growth for the state of Georgia.

Since the beginning of the program, DACA receivers have lived in a limbo state. Meanwhile, they contribute more than $ 61.3 million in state and local taxes and $ 64.6 million in federal taxes. While other states allow Dreamers access to state tuition fees to attend statewide universities, Georgia only allows them to receive extra-state tuition fees that are at least three times the state tuition fees. This forces talented students to study elsewhere, and Georgia loses an estimated $ 10 million in tax revenue annually simply because academically trained dreamers are excluded from access to tuition fees.

By not expanding access to state tuition for young Georgia Dreamers, we are failing these young people. My wife and I are committed to helping immigrant youngsters use their unique talents and skills to lead them to success, and we have seen how limited access to tuition has affected their journey.

In 2011 I met a young man named Emmanuel who recently started attending our after-school programs in the Path Project. When Emmanuel was six years old, his parents moved him from Mexico to the United States to give their five children a better life and a better education. When I met Emmanuel, I quickly realized that he was a smart, honest, and talented young man. He was an excellent soccer player for his high school team and to this day one of my fondest memories is seeing his parents out on the pitch with him at Senior Night.

In 2016, Emmanuel became the first in his family to graduate from high school. His long-standing dream was to go to Gwinnett Tech where he could become a hairdresser and start his own business. However, his status as a DACA recipient meant he had to pay extra-state tuition fees to attend. This financial burden was too great for Emmanuel, so he never took part.

Today Emmanuel is a hard working young man who loves his family, Georgia, and America. He works, pays taxes, has a driver’s license, and is a positive member of our community. However, if government education had been possible, he would have attended college to pursue his dreams and make an even bigger contribution as a small business owner. I hope that one day, like so many other young Americans, he can fulfill this dream.

As our elected representatives in Congress work with the new administration to provide dreamers with a more permanent path to citizenship, we must continue to work locally to improve our businesses and communities. This bill would certainly help young immigrants like Emmanuel achieve higher goals through expanded access to education, but it would ultimately help Georgia become more attractive through diversification and innovation that foster the success of generations. I urge Georgian lawmakers to stand behind this important law and support our youth today for a better future.