For nearly a decade, the U.S. government debated what to do about illegal immigrants arriving as children in their families. These nearly 2 million illegal immigrants who arrived in America as children within the past 23 years can’t legally work, get a driver’s license or receive most of the government benefits.
The Obama Administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) in 2012. This program allowed this group to work legally after they had completed high school.
It was a contentious executive order. Donald Trump failed to come up with a bipartisan solution to extend the executive order. His administration tried to repeal it. The Supreme Court disapproved of the rescission in 2020.
In July, District Judge Andrew Hanen declared DACA illegal and determined that Congress is the right place to originate this program. The ruling, which he kept pending appeal, has left DACA recipients in complete uncertainty. This ruling should prompt Congress members to intensify their efforts to find a permanent solution that will allow them to keep training and work, which will increase the number of Americans who are employed and also boost GDP and tax revenues.
Members of Congress presented legislation, The Dream Act of 2021 earlier this year. This bill would expand DACA’s protection to include children born before 2007. Similar legislation has been passed by the House of Representatives.
Many studies have been completed that assess the economic consequences of DACA being made permanent and extended to future immigrants. The methodology that we developed previously in previous studies was used to calculate the economic impacts of DACA protecting those who came to the country as 16- or 17-year olds or children living with their parents.
We find such protections to be beneficial for this group’s educational attainment, as it will greatly improve their chances of obtaining higher education. We estimate that this cohort would earn more if they complete high school and go to college, as well as the tax payments.
According to our analysis, implementing the legislation will increase the income of this group by approximately $26 billion over the next decade and raise tax revenue by about $20 billion. We found that making the DACA original permanent would boost tax revenue by almost $90 billion.
Because the new cohort is younger than the ones before, the estimates are lower for this one. This means they will work for a shorter period of time. The country would see the most economic benefits from this group over the following decade.
These children did not have a choice and can only vaguely recall their country of birth. We lose nothing by allowing them to legally work: They don’t want to leave and it seems that we are unwilling to make the necessary drastic steps to expel the majority of these people.
Nearly three quarters of Americans support legalization of immigrants to the United States and legal employment.
It is not clear that these people will take on jobs which would be available to U.S. citizens. They will be more productive if they have the opportunity to get and use college degrees. This will also reduce their competition for low-income jobs.
We also suggested DACA recipients to help prevent job loss in areas where there is a shortage of skilled labor, as the data shows that foreign-born workers are more likely to relocate for work.
According to our analysis, granting legal status for the next generation of Dreamers is a win-win situation. In addition to the huge benefits that this group would experience, the entire U.S. economic system would also benefit by allowing them to legally work here. We should support the Dream Act of 2021.
Kevin McGee is a professor emeritus from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. He co-authored this paper