Fresno Chamber joins business leaders, DACA recipients to discuss path forward to protect Dreamers

FRESNO, CA – Business leaders from the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, Wells Fargo, the Fresno Economic Opportunity Commission, DACA recipients, and other members of the business and non-profit community participated in a roundtable hosted by at the Fresno Downtown Business Hub to discuss the urgent need to pass a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers. The roundtable discussion took place just days before March 5, the deadline that President Trump gave to Congress to pass a legislative solution to protect Dreamers.

Dreamers contribute to the Fresno economy, to the social fabric of the Fresno community, and are key contributors to many Fresno businesses. In addition to the dire moral consequences of ripping apart families, the Fresno region could see a devastating loss of more than 19,100 workers who have DACA in the three Congressional districts covering Fresno, and lose out on more than $1 billion in annual GDP contributions if Congress fails to permanently protect Dreamers.

“There is a real social, human, and economic impact to the inaction we’ve seen out of Congress. Businesses up and down the Central Valley are facing the prospect of huge losses to their workforces and large turnover costs if Congress fails to do its job and pass permanent, bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers.” said Nathan Alonzo, Vice President of Government Relations with the Fresno Chamber of Commerce. “The time to act is now.”

Also speaking at today’s press conference was Maria Lemus, a Senior Field Director working for the California State Assembly, a founder of a non-profit organization the Education Leadership Foundation, and a DACA recipient.

She said, “I’ve been living in this country since I was 9 years old. Since that time, I’ve co founded a non-profit organization, I have pursued my master’s degree, held a variety of jobs, and I currently work for Assemblyman Arambula. Giving back to my community is my north star, which is why I have organized a Giving Circle for Central Valley young people. Congress needs to take action so that my fellow Dreamers and I can continue contributing to our local communities.”

Dreamers are students pursuing their dreams, and are loving parents to U.S. citizen children. They are teachers educating the next generation of American leaders, nurses caring for the sick and elderly, and engineers building our roads and bridges. Dreamers are doing their jobs every day in the face of this urgent crisis. It is time for Congress to step up and do theirs.

Quotes from other participants in yesterday’s roundtable are below:

DACA Recipient, and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) Social Services Coordinator, America Hernandez: “People see immigration as a partisan issue, a legal issue. But immigration is not a partisan issue – conservatives and progressives agree that Dreamers and the immigrant community deserve a pathway forward.”

Mark Ranneberger, Northern California Director at “California is home to more than 220,000 DACA recipients who contribute more than $11.6 billion to the state’s annual GDP. Passing permanent legislation to protect Dreamers is not only a fundamental question of American values, it is an economic imperative for California and this country. Recent polling shows that 86% of Americans support a permanent solution for Dreamers, and any Member who claims to stand with Dreamers must act now and do right by them.”

Dora Westerlund, CEO of Fresno Downtown Business Hub: “These young people’s lives have been spent in America trying to achieve the American dream. Our Members of Congress need to stand up and do more than just give lip service to the issue – they need to demand that bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers be brought to the floor. We will continue to do our part by activating and educating our member businesses about the need to speak up about this urgent crisis, and to vocalize the enormous consequences of failure.”

Irma Olguin, CEO of Bitwise Industries: “We need business leaders of all stripes, of all backgrounds, to step up and support our immigrant communities, and our DACA recipients. Bitwise stands strongly in support of Dreamers and we will continue pushing for a permanent legislative solution in Congress.”

Tim Rios, Wells Fargo Senior Vice President of Community Relations: “Dreamers are Americans in all but name. They are making a real difference in our local communities and to our local economies which have greatly benefited from this highly educated, motivated workforce. They feel they belong here, and we believe they belong here as well. It’s long past time for Congress to finally pass bipartisan legislation that gives them the certainty they deserve.”

Elizabeth Jonasson, Board Liaison and Community Engagement Director, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission: “After hearing feedback from the community we work with, our Board decided inclusion was going to be a strategic goal for our agency. This includes finding a permanent legislative solution for DACA recipients as well as immigration reform that allows our communities to continue thriving.”

Xavier Vazquez Baez, Director of Immigration Services at the Education Leadership Foundation: “The foundation has supported more than 17,000 young people to receive fee assistance to apply or renew their DACA. These young people are contributing to our economy fully. We need Congress to step up and do its job; DACA recipients are doing theirs.”

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