United States Capitol Dome in Washington DC

The retail industry is signaling its support for measures to roll back deportations of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, and to create paths to staying in the country.  

The National Retail Federation said it supports the Dream Act, which Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., broached on the Senate floor Thursday. The bill follows President Joe Biden’s presidential memorandum in January in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that had begun in 2012 during the Obama administration. 

“These young men and women have contributed to our society, businesses and economy, with many now serving in critical roles in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic,” NRF president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay said in a statement Thursday. “Now more than ever, it is time to provide them with a pathway to lawful permanent residence and ultimately American citizenship.”

DACA, which survived challenges at the Supreme Court during the Trump administration, had temporarily shielded some 825,000 recipients from deportations and allowed them to obtain work permits.

While the Biden administration works to firm up DACA protections, Congress will need to pass more concrete measures encapsulated in the Dream Act in order to create longer-term protections for immigrants under the program’s category, Durbin said. 

“Without DACA, hundreds of thousands of talented young people who have grown up in our country cannot continue their work and are at risk of deportation to countries they barely remember, if they remember at all,” Durbin said in a statement Thursday. “But the resumption of DACA is just the first step toward justice for dreamers. Only legislation by Congress can provide a path to citizenship for dreamers.”

“To all the dreamers out there, let me tell you this: passing the Dream Act is still my highest legislative priority,” Durbin said on the Senate floor on Thursday. 

Retail industry groups have generally pointed to their broad economic interests in supporting the DACA program and the Dream Act, which would go further than DACA and create a path for legal residency and citizenship for eligible immigrants. 

The Coalition for the American Dream, a group comprising corporations and trade groups, has argued that ending the DACA program, as the Trump administration had sought to do, would have reduced gross domestic product by some $350 billion to $460 billion. 

In a 2019 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, some 140 companies and industry groups including the NRF told the court they were invested in the program’s continuation as they employ DACA recipients. 

“In addition, amici’s customers and end users are DACA recipients; and amici’s businesses benefit from DACA recipients’ contributions to the overall economy through their tax payments, spending, and investments,” the companies said in the brief at the time, which was meant to indicate their position to the court. 

“Accordingly, amici have a strong interest in DACA recipients’ continued ability to work and participate in our country’s economy and in our society generally,” they wrote.