DREAMers are here to stay in Teton County

Let's update town and county housing regulations so DACA holders have equal access to owning an affordable home right here in Jackson.

For many people, a home isn’t just a place to rest your head at night. It’s an essential part of the American dream.

The advantages of owning a home are well-documented. Homeownership is one of the most powerful means of achieving financial security in this country, particularly in Teton County, where rent prices continue to soar to astronomical levels.

It builds wealth and stabilizes families and neighborhoods, encourages civic engagement, makes investments in other important areas of life like health and education possible, and promotes continuity in the local workforce.

We all know real estate prices in Teton County place homeownership out of reach for many residents. But for DACA recipients in and around Jackson, homeownership is uniquely unattainable.

Since its creation in 2012, DACA – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – has allowed around 800,000 young people who came to the United States without authorization as children to attend school, support their families, begin careers, contribute to their communities, and pursue their dreams. Provided they meet certain program requirements, DACA protects these young people from deportation from the United States for two years. It’s renewable in two-year increments after that.

While Wyoming has relatively low numbers of DACA recipients compared to states like California, a number of them now live here in Jackson. The economic, cultural, and personal impact of DACA recipients in our state cannot be overstated – though if you need to put a number on it, Wyoming DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals paid around $923,000 in state and local taxes in 2018, according to the American Immigration Council.

The immigrant population in Jackson is resilient and talented and an integral part of the local economy. DACA recipients – also called DREAMers – have grown up here. They’re attending local schools. They’re starting businesses, creating jobs, and working for local employers. But more than that, they’re our friends and neighbors who are giving back to our community in innumerable ways.

Like all of us, DREAMers want to stay in Jackson. To build their lives and raise their families here.

That’s why the ACLU of Wyoming supports updating Town and County regulations to ensure DACA holders are eligible to purchase affordable housing through the Town and County Housing Department.

While DREAMers are able to utilize the Housing Department’s affordable rental program, the affordable homeownership program remains off-limits for individuals who are not U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents.

The proposed rule change up for consideration by the Town Council and County Commission next week would allow DACA recipients with a social security number and valid employment authorization to purchase deed-restricted units available to the local workforce. With the Federal Housing Administration opening up mortgage eligibility to DACA recipients in January this year, homeownership is within financial reach for DACA holders now more than ever. Updating the Town and County housing regulations to make DACA holders eligible for homeownership through the affordable housing program is the right thing to do.

The DACA program has been the subject of much litigation in recent years, but DREAMers aren’t going anywhere. This is their home. Let’s make sure it stays that way by giving DACA recipients an equal opportunity to purchase affordable housing in Teton County, and to have a piece of the American dream of their very own.