A decision gone south?

Jenna Foster

September 22, 2017

    On September 5, 2017, President Trump has decided to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that is vital to the safety of about 800,000 young immigrants in the United States today.

    For those who are unaware of what DACA is — or simply refuse to take their time to research it because it doesn’t directly affect them — it is a program enacted by former president Barack Obama that shields young undocumented immigrants brought in by their families from deportation, allowing them the legal ability to obtain work in the U.S., to acquire a driver’s license, and receive a social security number.

    There is a plentiful amount of individuals who believe the removal of this program would be beneficial towards the country as a whole, but they seem to disregard important statistics; according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (uscis.gov), there are an estimated 787,580 young DACA immigrants as of 2017.

    In correlation, 91.4% of DREAMers surveyed are currently employed, averaging an annual income of about $36,231.91, 55.9% of which were not employed before DACA, as recorded by associate professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, Tom K. Wong, in a 2017 national DACA study. With the loss of these employers, the U.S. economy would lose approximately $430 billion over the course of the next 10 years.

    Seemingly, California and Texas with an estimated combination of 329,000 DACA recipients, would suffer a total Gross Domestic Product loss of $17.4 billion a year, according to research conducted by the Center for American Progress (americanprogress.org).

    Regarding the context of tax revenue, “ending DACA would reduce Social Security and Medicare tax contributions by $24.6 billion over a decade, half of which would have been paid by employers. Of these contributions, the reduction in Social Security contributions would be $19.9 billion, while the reduction to Medicare contributions would be $4.6 billion” (ilrc.org).

    In 2017, Wong, United We Dream (UWD), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the Center for American Progress held a study to analyze economic, employment, educational, and societal experiences by DACA recipients. The survey shows that 65% of recipients reported purchasing their first car, with an average cost of $16,469. Substantial investments such as these purchases account in state income, as most states amass a percentage of the purchase price in sales tax, along with additional registration and title fees (americanprogress.org).

    On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a speech directed towards the rescindment of DACA. In his remarks, he perpetuates a fundamental misconception of how the economy operates. Sessions denounces the notion of acknowledging any sort of amnesty to the approximated 800,000 undocumented individuals brought into the U.S. as children through no fault of their own.

    In a statement regarding DACA, president Trump claims that he was driven by a concern for “the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system.” Mr. Sessions said that the program had “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs” (nytimes).

    Mr. Trump and Sessions assert that those who illegally reside in the country are “lawbreakers who hurt native-born Americans by usurping their jobs and pushing down wages.”

    These phrases are drawn from the false allegations that immigrants are stealing jobs from American citizens, when there is no evidence to prove this.

    In fact, according to The Federal Reserve, a shortage of qualified U.S. workers has made hiring limited due to the persistent skills gap problem in the American economy. A report conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed that 36 million adults in the U.S. prove to be “low skilled”, causing there to be hiring issues across the country (www2.ed.gov).                                  

    A group of leading economists, demographers, and scholars at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine assembled a report on the impacts of immigration. Their research summed up that immigrants had “little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers” and that “immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the United States” (nytimes).

    “DACA has unlocked the enormous economic potential of this population,” said Tom Jawetz, vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress. As a result of Wong’s survey, it is shown that roughly 5% of recipients have started a business, compared to the 3.1% of Americans.

    In February 2016, there were about 5.6 million job openings, nearly “too many” says Patrick Gillespie, writer for CNN. An American Action Forum study found that if all undocumented immigrants were deported, there would not be enough American workers to fill the 6.8 million jobs that would be left open (americanactionforum.org). And even if all native workers replaced undocumented immigrants, the country would still be short 4 million workers. In August 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that 60.1% of Americans are employed, compared to the aforementioned 91% of DACA recipients, who were also surveyed in August (bls.gov).

    “These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper,” says former president Barack Obama. “ Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages.”

    In April 2017, a survey was conducted on how many Americans had a college degree: 33.4% compared to 50.34% of DREAMers. Of the thousands of recipients surveyed by Wong, 65.3% say that they pursued educational opportunities that they previously could not before being approved by DACA.

    Twitter user Alisa Roacho, 19, is a DACA recipient attending Imperial Valley College. When asked how she felt about Trump’s rescindment, she responded, “I feel that his decision is not based on politics or even diplomacy, but racism and white supremacy.”

    She says if it weren’t for the program, she would still be living in fear and hiding. “I wouldn’t be able to provide for myself,” she says. “Thanks to DACA, I’ve been able to work and obtain a driver’s license, buy two cars, and rent my first apartment.”

    “My dreams matter. I matter. Immigrants matter. And I, with thousands alongside me, will never stop fighting.”

    Like Alisa Roacho, 79.7% of DREAMers received their driver’s license for the first time, 65% had bought their first car, and 16% had become homeowners.

    The median age of these immigrants when they first entered the U.S. was 6.5 years old. These people have grown up in America, spent their whole lives as Americans. To the majority; they’re already citizens. To send them back to a country they may have never been before, tearing 44.6% away from their families to a place where they have no home, or may not even speak their language, is cruel and inhuman.

    As a result of DACA, many individuals have not only earned their first job (54.2%) but have also been able to obtain a job with better pay (68.5%); contributed greater amounts in state, local, and federal taxes; increased their educational attainment; supported their families; and obtained state identification and driver’s licenses.

    “What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideals – that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will; that all of us share an obligation to stand up, speak out, and secure our most cherished values for the next generation. That’s how America has traveled this far. That’s how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union,” says Obama.

    DACA represents an immense success in not only the American economy, but also the ability to allow young immigrants to apply their skills and education to better use for themselves and their families without the constant fear of deportation. DACA does not grant citizenship; rather it has become a reassuring force to immigrants by giving them the opportunity to become a successful component of today’s society, allowing them to obtain a job and education in order to continue contributing to their communities. America is built upon the fundamentals of immigration, and would be nothing without it today.


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