Last September, President Trump set a deadline for the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program that temporarily protected from deportation undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children. It’s now up to Congress to find a solution.
However, with the program’s expiration date looming, a congressional solution remains elusive. As Congress dickers, other decisions are being made that affect Arizona’s economy, like the recent ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court that DACA recipients are not eligible for in-state tuition.
In September 2017, there were 27,865 DACA recipients in Arizona, a number that shrinks each day as more Arizonans lose their DACA status. Rulings by three federal judges have paused this loss of status.
Now, however, DACA recipients remain in greater legal limbo, as the attorneys general for Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, and West Virginia have asked another US District Court to decide whether DACA is indeed lawful.
Chicanos Por La Causa and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry believe there must be a legislative path forward to bring the DACA issue to a positive resolution. A failure to do so would be a terrible missed opportunity and a self-inflicted economic injury.
More than 87 percent of DACA recipients – more than 24,000 – are working, earning an average of $17 per hour. One in five DACA recipients is also pursuing an advanced degree, which means Arizona DACA recipients are striving to obtain higher paying jobs, which leads to higher consumption and higher tax revenue generation.
Arizona DACA recipients are employed at all levels of the workforce – nurses, teachers, engineers, scientists, and laborers. Arizona DACA recipients and DACA workers nationally over the last 10 years have contributed nearly $25 billion to Medicare and Social Security, something from which we all benefit.
It’s an economic contribution we shouldn’t take for granted. Employers would incur $3.4 billion in turnover costs to replace DACA workers if the program were eliminated. These costs stem from the cycle of identifying, training, and replacing deported DACA recipients. The cost of deportation itself is high, with no return on investment. It would cost the country at least $10 billion to deport DACA recipients alone. Those costs will have to be absorbed by the federal budget, crowding out other important priorities.
If DACA is eliminated, our country will lose more than $460 billion from our existing GDP base over 10 years. At the same time, there would be an additional $280 billion reduction in future growth above that GDP base resulting from the loss of an expanded workforce.
For Arizona, the DACA issue complicates our relationship with our top trading partner, Mexico. Arizona leaders at all levels of government have helped forge the model binational relationship. Arizona’s welcoming environment has attracted more Mexican-owned businesses. A failure to reach a resolution on DACA runs counter to the positivity that surrounds the Arizona-Mexico relationship and harms the state’s ability to attract talent and new job creators.
The argument for a permanent DACA solution is economically sound. It also is just. Chicanos Por La Causa and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry stand with our nearly 30,000 friends, neighbors, family, and co-workers in asking Congress to lay aside its partisan differences and consider what this enormous loss would mean to us all.
David Adame is president and CEO of Chicanos Por La Causa Inc.
Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.