ORLANDO, Fla. – The pressure is on for Congress to act after President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program will end in six months.
Florida political leaders on both sides of the aisle reacted to the announcement saying new legislation will be immediately needed to fill the gap for the undocumented youths brought into the U.S. as children, many of whom are tax-paying adults now.
Florida is home to an estimated 33,000 approved DACA recipients, also called Dreamers, as of March of this year, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Migration Policy Institute estimated that 92,000 Floridians could qualify for DACA exemptions.
Advocates for immigration reform were quick to critic Trump's actions citing the human and economic impacts.
“Removing nearly 800,000 Dreamers from our economy, including over 46,000 in Florida alone, will have immediate negative ramifications all across our economy,” President & CEO of Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Julio Fuentes said. “This not only hurts those who are directly affected, it also affects the thousands of Floridians who live and work alongside them."
According to the American Immigration Council, undocumented youth enrolled or eligible for DACA pay about $2 billion each year in state and local taxes. Florida is fifth after California, Texas, New York and Illinois for a majority of that tax revenue.
"Florida’s DACA eligible population contributes more than $214.2 million in total taxes annually, $120.6 million of which goes to state and local tax revenue in the state of Florida," according to the New American Economy, a bipartisan immigration reform organization.
Republic Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrant parents, said after the announcement Tuesday that he has "long supported accommodating those brought to this country illegally through no fault of their own."
However, Rubio said he disagreed with Obama's choice to use executive action, calling it "unconstitutional," as the way to address the issue of undocumented youths.
"Congress now has less than six months to deal with this the right way, through the legislative process," Rubio said in a statement. "It is important that the White House clearly outlines what kind of legislation the president is willing to sign. We have no time to waste on ideas that do not have the votes to pass, or that the president won’t sign.”
Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said in statement that the decision essentially "kicks" Dreamers out of the country, instead of acknowledging their contribution to the U.S economy.
“Dreamers are our neighbors and our friends. They are our high school valedictorians and our first responders. It’s time for us, as a country, to come together and acknowledge the many contributions that Dreamers have made to our great country, instead of trying to kick them out of the only country they’ve ever known,” Nelson said in his statement.
Republican South Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the decision to end DACA "reckless and wrong."
"DACA was necessary to provide a migratory safe harbor and it is cruel to take away the opportunities to work and go to school currently afforded to them," Ros-Lehitnen said in a statement.
Ros-Lehtinen said she will work with her fellow Congress members to find a permanent legislative solution. The Congress woman and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-California) recently proposed a bill that would help Dreamers achieve permanent residency, legally.
"I remain committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to find a permanent legislative solution that protects Dreamers so that our nation does not lose this treasure trove of young people who only truly know and love the United States as their home," Ros-Lehtinen said.
Royal-Allard responded to the decision in a series of tweets.
“Trump's DACA decision was so shameful that he didn't even have the courage to make the announcement himself. Pathetic!” she said in a tweet. “My bipartisan DREAM Act w with Rep. Ros-Lehtinen would let U.S.-raised immigrant youth earn lawful permanent residence and U.S. citizenship.”
This is a developing story. Check back on ClickOrlando.com and watch News 6 for more.