Dear Friends of the Vilcek Foundation,
We were greatly dismayed to learn about the government’s recently announced intention to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
It is for the second time this year that we have decided to go on record expressing our opposition to the Administration’s policies. (The first time was at the end of January, when the Administration issued its first executive order barring the entry of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.) Now, once again, we feel that as former refugees, green card holders, and now citizens of the United States, we have an obligation to add to the many voices asserting that ending DACA would be morally wrong, contrary to the admirable traditions of the United States, harmful to the country’s economic interests, and damaging to our nation’s standing in the world.
Jennifer Raab, President of Hunter College, expressed aptly why ending DACA would be morally wrong: “No civilized nation criminalizes the conduct of innocent children.” In a September 6, 2017 editorial, headlined “The Dreamer Debacle,” the Wall Street Journal makes a similar point: “These young immigrants have committed no crime…” The editorial goes on to stress that Dreamers could be forced to return to a country where they no longer have family ties and may not even speak that country’s language.
But ending DACA would not be only morally wrong, it would be harmful to the United States’ national interests. The vast majority of DACA recipients hold useful jobs and pay taxes. A New York Times September 6, 2017 editorial estimates that 9 out of 10 are working taxpayers and deporting them would reduce the gross domestic product by over $400 billion over the next decade. Many Dreamers hold jobs in Silicon Valley and other key industries; finding replacements for them would be disruptive to the nation’s economy.
We came to this country, penniless, fifty years ago to break free from an oppressive authoritarian system of government. This great country welcomed us with open arms. Thanks to the supportive environment and the opportunities offered to us, we thrived in our professions and, yes, we did well financially, too. In turn, we tried to pay this country back, with NYU Langone Medical Center, NYU Institute of Fine Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art being the major beneficiaries of our philanthropic activities. We also established and endowed the Vilcek Foundation, a nonprofit organization that recognizes the contributions of immigrants to the sciences and the arts in the United States. How many stellar future scientists, artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs are there among the 800,000 Dreamers? And, given an opportunity, how many DACA recipients will go on to become major philanthropists?
Is it no longer true that the United States is a country of immigrants? Have we, as a society, forgotten that we owe much of our greatness to the immigrants who came from many corners of the world?
It is imperative now for Congress to pass legislation that gives legal status and a viable future in this country to the nation’s 800,000 Dreamers.
Jan and Marica Vilcek
Co-Founders of the Vilcek Foundation