DACAnomics


Last week, President Trump chose to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program that President Obama began five years ago by executive order to protect immigrants brought illegally to America by their parents. This troublesome story involves the lives of nearly 800,000 young men and women who are now 15  to 36 years old, and millions of their relatives.  The only reason they had to be protected through executive actions was the continued failure of Congress.  

In 2010,  the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed an immigration reform bill which would have allowed those children brought into the country illegally by their parents to obtain legal residency (this bill was known as the Dream Act).  The bill died in the Senate after a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats ensured it could not meet the chamber’s 60-vote, filibuster-proof threshold, a requirement in every regular legislative process. Three years later, the Democratic-led Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote, but the House, by then controlled by Republicans, did not act on the bill and it died at the end of the congressional session.  

President Obama, noting explicitly that it was not to be a be-all-end-all, permanent solution, began the DACA program to protect the Dreamers, as they became known, from immediate deportation.  Many conservatives viewed it as amnesty, or abandonment of the constitutional legal process by rewarding the Dreamers and their families for breaking the law.  However, it is important to remember economic factors important when making boisterous declarations about handing justice down to “illegal aliens.” First, consider their entrepreneurial prowess.  Dreamers are estimated to start businesses at rates nearly three times higher than their natural-born counterparts, meaning that their contributions to the US economy are a critical factor in keeping its current growth rate.  Second, consider the sheer amounts of capital and income they contribute: by the Cato Institute’s estimate, the US government would lose six billion dollars a year for ten years, and 280 billion dollars’ worth of growth over the same period.  California, with its population of 200,000 Dreamers, would be hit especially hard.  

Critics of DACA usually point out that that the undocumented population it protects take jobs that would normally go to American-born workers.  However, it’s frequently the case that those jobs are ones that Americans would rather avoid, such as in the fast-food or service industries.  If not, there are even instances of DACA recipients getting jobs over American-born workers because they are better-educated; they are required to be either enrolled in high school or have graduated high school to be eligible for the program.  Because of these requirements, DACA enrollees enter higher education at higher rates than native Americans, and thus some fill positions that require a college degree when not enough college-educated native-born Americans are available.  The bottom line is that yes, DACA may not be strictly legal, and President Obama himself acknowledged that it wasn’t a long-term legal fix, but for both economic and moral reasons, enrollees don’t deserve to have their lives and those of their families torn apart.

Credit: FiveThirtyEight https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-end-of-daca-will-ripple-through-families-and-communities/