CEO of Latin American Association Santiago Marquez on DACA

Santiago Marquez

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and a historic economic crisis, last year the Supreme Court issued a ruling that will lead to even more human and economic consequences for the state of Georgia.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program allows nearly 700,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. as children (known as “Dreamers”) to live, study, work, and contribute to the country they call home without fear of deportation. However, despite strong public support for Dreamers, the Trump administration terminated DACA in 2017.

While the program remained in place due to legal challenges to the president’s decision, the high court found that the administration’s termination of DACA was illegal.  The Trump administration previously signaled that they would be prepared to immediately begin deporting Dreamers, if the Supreme Court signed off on the program’s termination. Immigration advocates learned that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency responsible for executing deportations, already has access to sensitive information about DACA recipients, including their home addresses.

Deporting Georgia’s Dreamers would not only run counter to our values, but it would have a devastating impact on the state’s economy, workforce and our ability to effectively combat the consequences of COVID-19.

This new reality requires immediate action from the Congress, as well as President Biden. While the president has the power to grant an extension for DACA permits while Congress works on a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers. Luckily, legislation to address this issue already exists as the bipartisan Dream Act.

The Dream Act would protect Dreamers from deportation, allow them to work legally in the United States, permit them to travel outside the country and provide an opportunity to obtain legal status if they meet certain rigorous requirements. The Dream Act allows Dreamers to reach their full potential and have the opportunity to become American in the eyes of the law, contributing to a brighter future for all Americans.

Dreamers serve in the U.S. military, educate our children, care for us when we are sick, and contribute to communities and vital industries across our state. Most importantly, there are currently over 200,000 DACA recipients working on the frontlines of the coronavirus response, including 29,000 health care workers. In Georgia, 5,600 of our neighbors with DACA are working on the frontlines as medical providers, teachers, grocery store workers, distribution center employees and other essential roles.

By passing the Dream Act, Congress would protect the more than 40,000 DACA-eligible immigrants currently living in Georgia who collectively pay $78 million annually in state and local taxes and bring $614.8 million in total spending power. 

As our country faces unprecedented hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, passing the Dream Act would allow communities and families across Georgia to focus on our most pressing priorities.

We cannot afford for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers to abruptly drop out of our economy and be left with the threat of deportation. Failure to codify DACA would further devastate our local businesses and I urge Senator Jon Ossoff and Senator Raphael Warnock to co-sponsor the bipartisan Dream Act. Passing the Dream Act will demonstrate that our country can still come together and find meaningful bipartisan solutions to our most challenging issues. 

Santiago Marquez, CEO of Latin American Association 


Mr. Marquez was born in Cuba and came to the United States in 1971. He is a graduate of Georgia State University; alumnus of the Buckhead Business Leadership Class; alumnus of Leadership Atlanta, best class ever-2013; and a member of the Gwinnett Rotary, and in 2015 and 2016 he served on the Gwinnett Citizens Review Board. He also serves on multiple boards including the Aurora Theatre and the WellStar Atlanta Community Board.

Mr. Marquez joined GHCC in September 2008. His main functions included financial management, fundraising, membership development and partnership development. Mr. Marquez has been working in the non-profit sector since 1998, cutting his teeth with Consumer Credit Counseling Service, Inc., while attending graduate school at Georgia State University. After CCCS, Marquez served as the Director of Employment and Housing for the Latin American Association, starting the first housing department to focus on Hispanics in Atlanta. In 2004, Marquez joined Boys & Girls Clubs of America where he worked for four years as the Director of Latino Outreach. During this tenure, his duties included implementing a Latino outreach strategy in multiple Boys & Girls Clubs across the country. The Latino outreach initiative focused on outreach to Latino youth and families, while helping Clubs increase the number of Latino staff and board members. Most recently, Mr. Marquez served as the Director of Development, NE region where his duties included fundraising and corporate relations in the northeast region of the United States. Marquez became the President of the GHCC in 2017.

In 2014, Mr. Marquez received an award from the National Diversity Council. In 2020, Marquez graduated from the University of Notre Dame, Mendoza School of Business, with a Masters in Nonprofit Administration. He is the proud husband of a beautiful wife and very proud father of two beautiful daughters.