DREAMers and Dollars

Beyond the humanitarian arguments, getting rid of DACA will have a big economic impact

The DACA dilemma is challenging ... for the more than 800,000 children and families in the nation who are experiencing anguish over immigration status uncertainty as well as for the employers who have hired DACA recipients. The President's elimination of the DACA program last week impacts close to 40,000 young people in Arizona today. Prior to the President's action, we heard emotional appeals by the young people and watched rallies occur across the country. As the largest Latino business organization in Arizona, we are focused on the economic and workforce debate and commit to work with our Congressional delegation to promote the merits of our DREAMers, as the undocumented immigrants brought here as children are often referred to.

We have six months before our nation begins feeling the full effect of the Trump administration's elimination of the DACA program (which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program established by President Barack Obama to allow undocumented immigrants who arrived here as children to avoid deportation if they registerered with the government). A recent study estimates that over 1,400 jobs will be lost every business day as DACA renewals are halted (Business FWD). If a legislative solution by Congress is not finalized prior to December and DACA recipients are deported, this will equate to a $460.3 billion economic impact to our national GDP and a loss of $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions. These are numbers that should sway any legislator or political leader regardless of party affiliation.

We believe President Trump acted prematurely and rashly in eliminating the program. DACA was always designed to be temporary, but repealing the program without a process for individuals currently protected by it to continue to live and work in the United States will place an extreme hardship on U.S. businesses, on local communities, and on the American economy. DACA was not a perfect program, and improvements must be made in new legislation to address the young person's legal status for work and school while also speaking to the ongoing multi-state debate surrounding the right to a driver's license and the cost of higher education.

Who are the DACA recipients? They are young people who have grown up in America, registered with our government, submitted to extensive background checks, and are diligently giving back to our communities and paying income taxes. DACA recipients applied for this status by paying a $465 fee and submitting their documentation. With the confusion and media attention surrounding the DACA program, there are thousands of eligible young people who did not participate. According to the New American Economy, more than 97 percent are in school or in the workforce, 5 percent started their own business, 65 percent have purchased a vehicle, and 16 percent have purchased their first home. At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies count DACA recipients among their employees.

What is our risk while DACA is negotiated in Congress? The United States is now at risk of businesses prematurely firing employees or probing workers for information on their immigration status. A study by Magaña-Salgado in 2016 estimates that such action will cost employers $3.4 billion in unnecessary turnover costs, and would cut contributions to Medicare and Social Security by $24.6 billion over a decade. The reality is that unless Congress passes alternative immigration laws to protect DACA recipients, businesses will be forced to start laying off these employees as their work permits expire. The young people eligible for the DACA program are vital to the future of our companies and our economy. With them, we grow and create jobs.

President Trump has started the clock ticking. Businesses throughout our nation are depending on our Congress to approve legislation this fall that would provide these young people raised in our country a permanent solution. Join our Chamber Advocacy network at www.tucsonhispanicchamber.org/businessadvocacycenter.html.

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