SC Dreamers Act of 2018: What it is and what it would mean for Dreamers in SC

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On Wednesday, February 7, 2018, more than 75 Dreamers and allies from across the state joined at the SC Statehouse to advocate for the passage of the South Carolina Dreamers Act of 2018 (H4435 – Rep Collins/S869 – Sen Kimpson).

This legislation is incredibly important to the future of Dreamers in SC and our state as a whole. Dreamers already make a positive impact in their communities and invest in their local economies, but their dreams are often limited by existing state law which holds them back from reaching their full potential. The SC Dreamers Act would provide these young immigrants, legally residing in South Carolina access to…

  1. In-state tuition rates;
  2. Certain South Carolina merit-based scholarships; and
  3. Professional licenses (including, cosmetology, nursing and more).

Not only would this legislation allow Dreamers to better pursue their dreams, our state would benefit for years to come as these young people continue to move up the economic ladder and add to our state economy. In the end, South Carolina will have a well-educated workforce—educated right here in our state—capable of filling work shortages in fields across the state. This sentiment was echoed by Sen. Kimpson, ““I think we have more to gain by giving dreamers opportunities, and we stand to lose more if we don’t.”

These young people already live, learn, work, raise families and pay taxes in South Carolina. In the words of Rep. Collins, “We invest in [Dreamers] from K-12 then all of a sudden we have these obstacles put up for them with higher education,” Collins said. “Not only that, but if they want to become something licensed, whether it’s a nurse, teacher or a cosmetologist, they can’t in South Carolina.” This is unjust, and it just doesn’t make sense.

The majority of those who participated in Wednesday’s Lobby Day were DACA recipients who have been personally impacted by the current limitations in South Carolina. Throughout the day they met with both Representatives and Senators to share their personal stories, along with their dreams for the future. These personal stories clearly had a powerful impact on Legislators, because by the end of the day, four additional House members signed on to co-sponsor H4435 (Henegan, King, Rutherford and James Smith) and two Senators signed on to co-sponsor S869 (Hutto and Jackson).  Many other legislators were also informed about the need for this legislation and provided positive feedback. We’re very hopeful those legislators will also sign on as co-sponsors in the days and weeks to come.

In addition to meeting with state legislators, during the afternoon we were joined by a member of Sen. Tim Scott’s staff to discuss the critical need for Federal legislation, as we near the March 5th end date the Administration has set for the Deffered Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Participants voiced their concerns about their future legal status and the need for the protections of DACA to be stabilized into law; along with the importance of a path to citizenship.

Overall, the day was an incredibly powerful beginning at the state level, and an important next step toward an ultimate Federal solution—but our work is far from over. Together, Dreamers and advocates must keep up the pressure on both the state and federal legislation to ensure DACA recipients have the rights they deserve and every opportunity to pursue their dreams.

In their own words:

“I thought today was productive above all, got to meet new people, reconnect with old friends, and receive support from our State Reps! It was a great experience and I would definitely do it again!” – Lendale, 19, Gilbert

“Yesterday was simply an amazing experience! I am so humbled and overwhelmed with all the support I felt like we got yesterday! (Hoping that it was genuine) I was able to meet other DACA recipients who are fighting just like we are. Throughout the day and getting to know others, it felt like we knew each other since forever. It was a long, busy day but really good to know all of the information.

The meeting [with the Speaker Jay Lucas] was simply great. I always love hearing other stories other than mine. And Jay Lucas seemed very nice and understanding. He did not know about in state tuition and from all of us sharing our stories he seemed very touched. I loved how Ivan was sharing his and Mr. Lucas connected with him because he said he lives close to him and he knew exactly where he works. If we had to do it again, I think I would.” – Griselda, 24, Columbia