The White House has announced that within six months it will end the program known as DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, that protects from deportation some 800,000 undocumented people who were brought to the United States as minors. The right thing to do, for our country’s economic prosperity and collective morality, is for Congress to use this opportunity to pass a bill that reinstates these protections and removes their future debate from the whims of whomever is in the White House.
For many DACA beneficiaries, their life experiences leave them just as much an American patriot as any citizen. And yet, their status prevents them from pursuing their American dream. DACA has given them an opportunity to contribute to their home, this great country. But it isn’t just the beneficiaries who benefit; the country gets 800,000 people with clean records, high school degrees or military service entering the workforce, seeking higher education and contributing to our economy.
According to a survey of DACA recipients by the Center for American Progress, 69 percent of respondents stated that with DACA they were able to find employment with better pay. The post DACA average wage increased by 45 percent. This segment of the population are already being productive members of society, and now can contribute more through taxes and buying power. The CATO Institute has estimated that over the next ten years DACA beneficiaries will contribute $512 billion to the US GDP. In addition, their contribution to Social Security and Medicare tax totals $24.6 billion. Congress has been given six months to legislate an alternative. An inaction would constitute the workforce losing 800,000 workers.
Ending DACA is a mistake, but Congress can do the right thing and pass a bill to give these 800,000 the protection they deserve. Two-thirds of Americans support DACA and the policy already enjoys bipartisan support in Congress. The 2017 Dream Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Durbin and Graham is a start.
There are many contentious and legitimate arguments to have about immigration policy. But the question we are asked by this action is, are we going to send 800,000 people who contribute to our communities and economy, and who simply want the chance to strive for success back to places they can barely remember? Now that the White House has announced the end of this program, it is a question that Congress must answer. For our economy, for our society and for our conscience I hope that the answer is a firm and emphatic, “no!”
Monica Lozano chairs the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program. The views and opinions of the author are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Aspen Institute.