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With DACA on life support, Microsoft, Apple and other big U.S. firms launch ad campaign to protect 'Dreamers'

An ad running in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News and The Charlotte Observer warns congressional leaders that ending DACA would hurt the economy.

Microsoft, Apple, Meta and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies launched an ad campaign Thursday to push Congress to pass a new law that would secure the fate of migrants known as “Dreamers,” part of a last-ditch effort to save the protections as federal courts seem likely to end the executive order that has protected them since 2012.

But both Republican and Democratic Senate aides say the effort has a slim chance of working and predict that Dreamers will most likely begin to lose their work authorization and security from deportation sometime early next year. Republicans, who are expected to increase their numbers in Congress in November’s midterm elections, largely oppose protecting Dreamers unless Democrats make significant concessions to beef up border security and turn away asylum-seekers, which they are unlikely to do. 

More than 600,000 Dreamers — migrants brought to the U.S. as children but who lack legal status — are protected under the 2012 executive order known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and advocates say hundreds of thousands more are eligible.

The ad, running in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News and The Charlotte Observer, warns congressional leaders that ending DACA would hurt the economy.

“Collectively, we represent the backbone of an American economy facing tremendous workforce challenges as a result of the pandemic. We face another crisis if Congress fails to act on an issue that has strong bipartisan support from the American people,” said the letter, signed by Target, Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, Meta, Apple, Google, MGM Resorts and other companies, as well as the Business Roundtable.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that DACA was illegal but allowed more than 600,000 current DACA recipients to keep their status while a lower court reviewed a new DACA rule the Biden administration put forward.

Last Friday, the judge in the lower court, Andrew Hannen of U.S. District Court for Southern Texas, asked for more information from both sides. He is predicted to rule against the new DACA rule ultimately, because he found its previous iteration illegal.

The case may ultimately go to the Supreme Court. Although the justices in 2020 blocked the Trump administration from ending DACA, legal experts believe the court, now more conservative, will ultimately rule that DACA itself is illegal, particularly because it allows for work authorization for undocumented migrants.

The recent court rulings spell the end of DACA, advocates of the program say.

“Tragically, the 5th Circuit and courts have made it clear that not only did they rule the current DACA rule is illegal, but the new DACA rule will be illegal, too,” said Todd Schulte, the president and executive director of FWD.US, a group that has advocated for DACA to continue. “DACA is an already dead zombie program — the question now is will Congress actually pass something in lame duck, which could be the last chance before the horror that comes from nearly 700,000 DACA recipients’ being forced from their jobs and subjected to deportation.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “Dreamers are an essential part of the fabric of our nation. They make our communities stronger, they make our companies more innovative, and they deserve a right to live in America with dignity. I stand with the bipartisan majority of Americans who agree that granting permanent protections for Dreamers is the right thing to do. It’s time for Congress to act.”

DACA legislation would need at least 10 Republicans to sign on to pass the Senate, which is unlikely, say Senate aides from both Republican and Democratic offices.

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., chair of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration, said the “brutal reality” is that the lame duck session of Congress after the midterms is “absolutely critical” because of the strong possibility Republicans will take the House.

“I certainly welcome [the business community's] increased engagement and advocacy," he said. "Anything that can continue to add to the sense of urgency is also welcome."

A Republican aide said the “business community always underestimates how hard it is to get legislation through on this topic and tends to misread the political environment.”

The business community’s long-standing influence within the Republican Party showed its limits on the issue of immigration in 2013, when the Chamber of Commerce and a host of business leaders endorsed a comprehensive overhaul that passed the Democratic-led Senate and died in the GOP-controlled House, amid implacable opposition from conservatives to a legalization program.

Slimmer bills to normalize the status of Dreamers have also run into GOP opposition, including in the Trump administration, as conservatives insisted on pairing normalization with cuts to family-based immigration.

Another Republican aide said there is “zero” chance to pass immigration legislation while Joe Biden is president.

“Now, no one trusts Democrats of the Biden administration to actually enforce the law and crack down on illegal immigration. Until that changes, there is no deal to be had,” the Republican aide said.

A Democratic aide agreed that the business community can accomplish only so much with an ad buy and encouraged companies to put their lobbying power behind reaching out to individual Republicans on DACA and immigration reform.

“From what I’m seeing and hearing, Republicans are not budging on this,” the Democratic aide said. “I’m glad these companies are doing this now, but they’re only as effective as their outreach.”

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said the business community could play a major role in shaping the immigration debate.

“At some point, the business community will wake up and say: ‘Hey, we need immigration in order to meet our labor challenges. We have 11 million jobs that are going unfilled,” Menendez told NBC News.