By Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO
Among the unanswered questions about President-elect Donald Trump’s plans for his administration is the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program instituted in 2012. DACA allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children—also known as DREAMers—who have completed or are enrolled in high school, and who have not committed serious offenses, to obtain work permits and have temporary protection from deportation. The status is renewable every two years. To date, approximately 740,000 DREAMers have received temporary deportation relief under DACA.
When Trump was a candidate, he promised to “cancel unconstitutional executive orders,” a commitment that some have assumed would include DACA. What a President Trump will do is not clear. What is clear is that the deportation of tens of thousands of talented young people would have dire consequences for our nation’s economy—and each of their futures. This is why Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham have introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at allowing people who are eligible or have applied for DACA to remain in the United States with permission to work and without fear of deportation. They know that DACA works.
Many DREAMers arrived in this nation as very small children. As a result, DREAMers are as American as anyone who is native-born. DACA recipients purchase homes and invest in small businesses. They are teachers who educate our children. They are doctors and nurses who care for our sick and our elderly. These are real people with real families that have made real contributions—we cannot throw that away.
The economic cost of ending DACA would be enormous, as we would lose the benefits of our investments in developing the nation’s future workforce. The Center for American Progress recently estimated these potential wasted economic benefits to be a staggering $433.4 billion in gross domestic product over the next decade. Were a Trump administration to decide to try and deport DACA recipients, the cost would grow by some $69 billion to $76 billion, according to the right-leaning American Action Forum.
The social cost of ending the DACA program is immeasurable—we would disrupt and forever alter the future of nearly three-quarters of a million young people who have come forward to get right with the law, have stayed out of trouble, and graduated from school. Deporting DREAMers would constitute breaking a commitment to those who applied and paid a $465 fee—which covered every cent of the program’s expenses, meaning not a penny was borne by taxpayers—in exchange for temporary protection from deportation and the right to work legally in the United States.
Because DACA has not been successfully challenged in any court—it is the DAPA program that faces a variety of court challenges that remain unresolved—President Trump could extend the program while remaining fully faithful to his campaign promises. In another campaign promise, candidate Trump declared that he would restore the American Dream. A good first step toward making that promise a reality would be to extend DACA, upholding the American Dream for tens of thousands of young people, and earning more than a half-trillion-dollar bonus for our economy over the next decade.
To achieve all of this President Trump needs to do… nothing. The program will remain in place as long as he chooses not to revoke it. After a long, divisive campaign, that’s a deal all Americans should be able to get behind.
This piece was originally published in Spanish on Univision.com.