By Bianca Taipe
On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration instituted a six-month delay of the Dream Act in order to grant Congress the ability to set legislation before March. With the elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), the United States will no longer benefit from the program’s positive impacts. The termination of the Dream Act will lead to the devastation of the U.S. economy and 800,000 undocumented youth at risk for deportation. Although the Trump Administration offered a deal, President Trump requested tougher immigration enforcement and demands for funding of his proposed border wall in exchange for the continuation of DACA. Democratic leaders, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, are advocating for a clean Dream Act which would offer undocumented immigrants a pathway to permanent legal status without including harsh crackdowns on immigration.
How did the U.S. benefit from the Dream Act since its initiation in 2012? According to the Center for American Progress, DACA recipients made positive and significant contributions to the economy. Earning higher wages promoted higher tax revenue which has resulted in economic growth for all Americans. The Dream Act provides temporary work permits that grants Dreamers the ability to work on-the-books for higher wages than under-the-table jobs. An increase in wages contributed to the boost of the Dreamers financial security, allowing them to purchase cars and homes. The National Association of Realtors reports that home purchases encourages the creation of new jobs and the infusion of new spending in local economies.
Dreamers currently enrolled in DACA will eventually lose their work permits as the program expires. A study conducted by the Center for American Progress estimated that the cumulative U.S. gross domestic product would be reduced by $433.4 billion over the following ten years. California’s GDP alone would lose $11.2 billion due to a loss of over 100,000 DACA workers. In addition to the negative effects contributed from the loss of workers, Trump’s plan to crackdown on immigration would cost the country nearly $7.5 billion in an event of a mass deportation. Nationally, the lost GDP would total to $433 billion over the following decade. Trump’s proposal to maximize immigration enforcement will not only be costly for the U.S., but the loss of workers will also greatly affect the nation’s GDP, potentially devastating the country’s economy.
A survey conducted by the 2017 National DACA Study concluded that nearly 45 percent of Dreamers are currently enrolled in school, with 72 percent of those students hoping to pursue higher education. DACA considers its recipients as “lawfully present”, which grants undocumented youth with federal financial aid. Without financial assistance, it’s nearly impossible for students to attend college due to high tuition costs. With the end of DACA, the inability to afford college now becomes a barrier for immigrant youth, as shown by research from the Brookings Institute. For Dreamers, pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher would contribute to the improvement of future employment opportunities and earnings.
As of now, DACA is no longer accepting new applications. Those who are already participants of the program will continue to sustain their benefits until their two-year mark expires. Eliminating the Dream Act or incorporating immigration enforcement as part of a deal in exchange for the program would be harmful to the lives of Dreamers and the economy. Congress has until March of 2018 to pass a clean Dream Act that will allow 800,000 undocumented youth the ability to work, study and contribute to society without fear.