Erin Mendenhall: America thrives when Dreamers thrive

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Luis Vallejo of Layton joined supporters of "We are Dreamers," a Utah pro-Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) group, that marched in solidarity from the Utah Federal Building to the State Capitol with undocumented immigrants who will be affected by the end of DACA.

Earlier this year, we celebrated when the Utah Supreme Court approved a rule allowing “Dreamers” (people without official authorization who come to the U.S. as minors) the ability to practice law in the state.

It was also a smart and restrained decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) this past June. Both were welcome news for the talented, bright graduates with law degrees who had not been able to practice their chosen profession. But more than that, it was good news for Utah. We’ll all benefit from their expertise.

As a former City Council member charged with approving citywide budgets, and now as Salt Lake City’s mayor, I know how difficult it is to balance limited resources. Which is why efforts to remove from our country or otherwise prohibit smart, ambitious young people — many of whom are making it their life’s work to give back — from contributing, is not a good use of public tax dollars. It’s not an efficient use of staff resources. It also doesn’t reflect our values as Salt Lakers or Americans.

Dreamers show us through their perseverance and resilience what it means to live out the ideals of the American dream. Utah has some 10,000 Dreamers. These are people who are woven into the very fabric of our communities. They contribute to the economy, increase tax revenues, educate children and work in front-line health care and other essential jobs.

Our city and state need Dreamers to help us pull through a tough economy and an even tougher public health crisis. Should DACA end without a permanent path forward from Congress, we will feel the impact profoundly.

DACA recipients and those who are eligible make up a vital part of our population. This is home, and keeping them here benefits not only those individuals, but also our community as a whole. We must urge Congress to find an appropriate and just solution for DACA recipients and their families.

In the meantime, we must continue to demonstrate our support for DACA. Dreamers help make our economy and our society thrive. Let’s not limit their potential, or ours.

Erin Mendenhall

Erin Mendenhall is Salt Lake City’s mayor.