Charlotte-area business leaders are coming out in strong support of immigrants following President Donald Trump’s decision Tuesday to end a federal program that protects hundreds of thousands of young people brought to the U.S. illegally.
The collective message isn’t just that immigration is good for the economy. Local executives are using their platform to defend it as a human rights issues, and are encouraging other leaders to put pressure on Congress to do the same.
In a series of tweets Tuesday, Ric Elias, CEO of Indian Land-based Red Ventures, said that he will continue to fight for undocumented immigrants living in fear of deportation.
“I’ll do everything in my power to put pressure on Congress like we never have before. And I ask fellow business leaders to use their platforms to do the same. If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything,” Elias said.
Elias, a native of Puerto Rico, has long been vocal about social issues. His scholarship program to help undocumented students pay for college went national last year, for instance. Following the violent protests in Charlottesville last month, Elias also took to Twitter last month to say that it’s time to take down Confederate monuments on public property in North Carolina.
On Tuesday, Trump began dismantling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which the Obama administration put in place in 2012. It protects nearly 800,000 young immigrants who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children, including over 27,000 in North Carolina, federal data show.
Trump administration officials said the government will no longer accept new applicants to the program and called on Congress to replace it during a six-month “wind down period.”
Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan was one of about 400 business leaders who signed a letter defending DACA. Dreamers, as DACA beneficiaries are called, “are vital to the future of our companies and our economy,” the executives wrote, noting that it DACA ends, the U.S. would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.
“Wells Fargo believes young, undocumented immigrants brought to America as children should have the opportunity to stay in the United States. DACA is relevant to our team members and the communities we serve,” Wells Fargo spokeswoman Jennifer Dunn said in an email.
Wells Fargo is based in San Francisco but has its largest employment base in Charlotte.
Brian Moynihan, CEO of Charlotte-based Bank of America, also voiced support for young immigrants, and is encouraging lawmakers to find a permanent solution for them.
“The individuals covered by the terms of this program live in and contribute to the neighborhoods and communities across our country that we serve every day. We encourage Congress to resolve this issue in a manner that allows those contributions to continue and our communities to thrive,” Moynihan said.
The Business Roundtable, a national group of CEOs, said it strongly opposes scrapping DACA without an immediate replacement.
“America is and always has been a country of immigrants. We should do everything in our power to continue to attract the best and brightest because they make us stronger as a people and as an economy,” said JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, chairman of the group of executives.
JPMorgan, the largest U.S. bank by assets, has been expanding in Charlotte since 2011. The bank has over 100 North Carolina employees, most of whom are in Charlotte and Raleigh. Staff writer Rick Rothacker contributed.