Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories President Edmund Schweitzer III’s signature appeared along with those of many other influential business owners – including Apple and Amazon CEOs Tim Cook and Mark Bezos – in an open letter Monday urging Congress to extend Obama-era protections for so-called dreamers.
The letter expressed support for a path to citizenship for those brought to the United States illegally as children, who just two years ago found protection in an immigration policy that has come to be referred to as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That same day, the Daily News published a personal letter to the editor penned by Schweitzer himself.
“We have an immediate opportunity to do the right thing for these young people,” Schweitzer wrote. “Rather than pushing them back into the shadows, we should allow them to continue contributing to society and pursuing the American Dream.”
Nearly 800,000 people have been granted temporary authorization under the program to stay legally in the country after being brought here as children. In September, President Donald Trump canceled the program, which was created by President Barack Obama in 2012. If the program is not extended by March 5, those in the program face deportation.
The program’s uncertain future played a major role in the government shutting down Friday night, as Democrats refused to pass a spending bill to keep the government operating until Feb. 16 unless DACA protections were extended.
SEL officials say Schweitzer’s views represent the company as a whole.
“The letter to the editor is part of SEL’s broader advocacy efforts around ensuring that DACA recipients have some sort of a practical path forward,” said Larry Camm, senior government Affairs representative for SEL. “Ideally, we would like to see a legislative solution passed by Congress as soon as possible.”
Camm said SEL has a number of employees working under the DACA program who are significant contributors to the company. He said though the primary concern is for the employees, the issue affects SEL directly as a business.
“Our employees, like young people across the country, are facing uncertainty and they’re anxious about what their future is going to hold,” Camm said.
Washington State University officials agreed that continuing protections for DACA recipients is a critical issue for the Pullman community.
“It’s a really stressful situation for students and their allies, quite frankly,” said Phil Weiler, vice president for marketing and communications at WSU. “We certainly want to thank our friends at SEL for taking a stand, because this is an issue that’s of importance to all Americans.”
Weiler said the university made a point of connecting students to qualified legal advice to ensure they understood their rights. SEL Immigration Specialist Jennifer Sharp said her organization provides a similar service to its employees. She said they’ve been working with advocacy counsel for more than 15 years.
“We keep our employees informed of current actions and any relief or assistance that we can provide them,” Sharp said.
Camm said the wave of support is a symbol of just how engaged the business community is with this issue. He said this kind of advocacy sends a signal to Congress that businesses have a vested interest in a bipartisan solution – and the sooner the better.
“If that’s not achievable, I don’t expect the drumbeat of support for finding a solution to ease up,” Camm said. “This has the attention of business leaders, trade associations from every corner of the country.”
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