Viewpoints

Congress, fix the DACA crisis. Exiling Dreamers from California would be disastrous

Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA chant slogans and hold signs while joining a Labor Day rally in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA chant slogans and hold signs while joining a Labor Day rally in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel) AP

Across California’s capital region, our business leaders have long understood the path forward for our region’s economy is preparing today’s workers for tomorrow’s industries. Powered by some of the country’s leading universities, we are innovating the businesses of healthcare, agriculture, advanced manufacturing and others. But in order to translate these innovations into jobs and a robust business climate, we need a diverse workforce that can keep up.

Immigrants have long been a vital part of that pipeline for California’s capital region and essential for an inclusive and thriving economy. They represent our region’s workforce and students as well as our small businesses and entrepreneurs. It is vital for Congress to pass laws that fairly, and consistently, address immigration. This includes the capital region’s own representatives in the House on both sides of the aisle.

Sacramento County alone is home to an estimated 17,000 DACA participants and DACA-eligible workers. That’s 17,000 workers and students who comprise a key part of our economy.

Unfortunately, because of congressional inaction nearly 800,000 immigrant young adults and students are being stripped of their work permits and college education. These young people arrived in the U.S. not by choice but as children without documentation. They are now choosing to embrace the American Dream – to go to school, open businesses and become citizens. We call them “Dreamers” because the dreams they carry for themselves and their families are the same that we all do as Americans.

The Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created in 2012 to give them that shot and create a path, on the condition that they earn it every step of the way. In order to retain their temporary residency status, DACA participants are subject to strict background checks, recurring application fees and either consistent employment or enrollment in college.

They are committed to their community’s futures and contributing positively to their local economies. They pay taxes, buy products and work hard in local industries throughout our region. About six percent of Dreamers have even launched their own business, many of which now employ U.S. born workers.

Ever since DACA was repealed last September, business leaders have been warning lawmakers that removing these Dreamers from our society and workforce would be an economic disaster – whether through deportation or revoking their ability to work legally.

The economic effects are staggering. It would cost employers an estimated $3.4 billion in unnecessary turnover costs, slash contributions to Medicare and Social Security by more than $24 billion over the next ten years, and impose GDP losses of approximately $460 billion over a decade. Many of these effects have already begun with more than 20,000 Dreamers losing their residency status and work permits nationwide.

These impacts are hitting home as well. Sacramento County alone is home to an estimated 17,000 DACA participants and DACA-eligible workers. That’s 17,000 workers and students who comprise a key part of our economy. That’s 17,000 family members, heads of households, and community members whose loss would be painfully felt throughout our communities and our economy.

To avoid this needless disaster, it is crucial that Congress enacts a bi-partisan permanent legislative immigration solution for Dreamers that includes safeguarding work permits, protections from deportation, and a pathway to citizenship, combined with smarter border security utilizing technology and a more comprehensive border strategy.

Doing so would represent the values of our country and the principles to which we were founded as a home for immigrants striving for the American Dream. I am not the only one to believe this. I am joined by 86 percent of Americans who support Dreamers staying in this country.

There is no time to waste. Our economy, our community, our country depends on it.

Amanda Blackwood is the president & CEO of the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce. Reach her at ablackwood@metrochamber.org.

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