Every day since the election has been marked with raised voices, pumping fists, and protests in anticipation of President-Elect Donald Trump’s cancellation of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) 2012 executive action, which allows otherwise illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children to request deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.
Since DACA was initiated in 2012, there have been nearly 750,000 applications. Each applicant must pass a background check and meet specific age, education, and residency requirements. Successful applicants receive a temporary, renewable work permit and reprieve from deportation. Most importantly, DACA recipients have access to more higher education opportunities through in-state tuition in a wider breadth of colleges and universities. To provide the permanency these individuals need and deserve, Republicans need to stitch together a legislative solution.
DACA faces a bleak future under a Trump administration. In August 2016, Donald Trump emphasized that he wants to “cancel unconstitutional executive orders and enforce all immigration laws.” But in his 60 Minutes interview earlier this month, Donald Trump walked back his promises of immediate deportation of beneficiaries of DACA, DACA+, and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). Yet even if proponents can persuade Trump to allow DACA to remain for now, a continuation of the executive action is a band-aid on what is now a gangrenous wound.
Highlighting the need for legislation legalizing this population is the heightened vulnerability of DACA cancellation by the United States Supreme Court. Earlier this year, SCOTUS ruled in United States v. Texas against another executive order expanding DACA (DACA+) and providing for DAPA. Together, this executive action would have allowed parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents present in the country since January 1, 2010 to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years, provided they pass required background checks. But the ruling by the Supreme Court put the kibosh on the expansion.
The bright light at the end of an otherwise dark tunnel is that DACA is socially and economically beneficial to America. Just three years into implementation of DACA, the National UnDACAmented Research Project (NURP) found that DACA beneficiaries experienced pronounced increases in economic opportunities that contribute to the economy of the United States. Many beneficiaries now have bank accounts and credit cards, and have obtained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Over 10 years, the estimated cumulative increase of the income of all Americans from DACA, DAPA, and DACA+, which includes approximately 5.2 million eligible immigrants, is $124 billion; the cumulative increase in gross domestic product (GDP) is over $230 billion. The growth in economic activity will also create an average of 28,814 jobs per year over the next 10 years. Additionally, the Social Security Administration projects that this population will add $41 billion in new tax revenue over 10 years and the Center for American Progress estimates payroll tax revenues over $22.6 billion in five years.
There is significant opportunity for Republicans to use the positive economic impacts and the humanitarian pragmatism to make the policies permanent. Not only does it make financial sense, it renders obsolete the executive action initially used to introduce and expand deferred action — which is what really irks many conservative politicians.
Informed, pragmatic Republicans need to acknowledge the economic and social impacts of a permanent path to citizenship, and provide a permanent solution to their status limbo.