Ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would be devastating for 800,000 young adults and hinder the growth of California’s economy. DACA individuals are productive members of our society who have been living as Americans since they were children, and we need them in California and America.
In my role as the president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, I see daily the positive contributions to our economy from DACA recipients. While Los Angeles has been considered ground zero for this issue, its ramifications for the entire state cannot be ignored.
California has already gained tremendously by bringing the nearly 230,000 DACA recipients out of the shadows and into our thriving economy. A recent survey estimates that if California’s DACA recipients are deported, the loss of annual GDP to the state will be more than $11.6 billion. This should come as no surprise, since these individuals are educated and driven, exactly the profile of economically productive young members of our society.
And let’s not forget, their economic prowess is in its infancy. It will only continue to grow stronger with time. If the Golden State is to remain the sixth largest economy in the world, DACA recipients must be encouraged – not deported.
The data on DACA is plentiful, and the findings should be celebrated among American politicians. Anyone eligible for DACA already met stringent requirements. They had to pass a background check, have no criminal conviction and pose no threat to national security or public safety. They had to graduate from high school or obtain a GED, have an honorable discharge from the armed forces or be attending school when they applied for DACA status. Persons who meet this criteria are already demonstrating qualities of hard work, an eagerness to learn, and a commitment to our great nation.
If we analyze DACA recipients, we’ll find that 90 percent are employed, and they pay more than $1.4 billion in federal taxes and another $1.6 billion in state and local taxes. In 2015, DACA-eligible entrepreneurs had a total business income of $658.7 million, a significant boost to local economies across the country. Right now we are placing this industrious group of young strivers at risk and they live with the very real threat of being deported from the only country they have ever known.
Thankfully, Congress has the opportunity to nullify the threat of deportation for the “Dreamers,” but they have a narrow window, until the end of the year.
Congress already has a bipartisan, bicameral bill, introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and California Democratic Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard and Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, that creates a path to citizenship for America’s “Dreamers.” The Dream Act of 2017 is the solution we need. This common sense legislation must be a top priority for year-end. The stakes are far too dire.
Why did more than 800 business leaders, including the CEOs of Apple, Facebook, Google and Wells Fargo, ask the Trump Administration not to rescind DACA? Because they see the objective reality: DACA recipients are making our economy greater and deporting them would cause significant and lasting economic damage, not to mention the wrenching human pain.
Our country’s representatives cannot stand by idly while families are torn apart, young adults’ lives and dreams are destroyed and our economy, both across the country and in California, is damaged. Congress should move to pass the Dream Act this year – we don’t have a second to lose.
Gary L. Toebben is president and CEO of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Reach him at email@example.com.