Commentary: DACA: Good for the Economy

Commentary: DACA: Good for the Economy

It's probably not a surprise to readers of this newspaper that I oppose the Administration's move to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for children of undocumented immigrants who had no say in whether they were brought to this country. Another term for people with DACA status are "Dreamers."

The DACA program allows these residents to work, become a licensed driver and attend school. Virginia has more than 12,000 young people eligible for DACA status. These young people contribute to our local economy, pay taxes and spend their earnings in local businesses. They are Virginians and Americans as much as any of us are. To eliminate DACA would expose them to deportation, destroy families and the businesses in which they work. By some estimates, the cost to the U.S. economy (reducing America’s GDP) could be as high as $460.3 billion over a decade.

It's not just people with DACA status that are at risk by ending the program. You and I are hurt too. People with DACA status have employment levels that increase from 44 to 91 percent. Eliminating that status would increase homelessness in our community. Once people receive DACA status, their median hourly wages go up on average 60 percent. This gives them the money to spend and grow our economy, or pay their debts.

Sixty-five percent of recipients say they pursued educational opportunities that they otherwise would not have had access to. More than half of those currently pursuing additional education seek a bachelor’s degree or higher. Gaining DACA also leads to a marked increase in entrepreneurship. Around 8 percent of DACA recipients over 25 started businesses after receiving status. And perhaps best of all, a whopping 97 percent of DACA recipients are employed or enrolled in school. These are not people we should be encouraging to leave our country.

Simply put, these young people are good for the economy. They contribute meaningfully to our society and eliminating DACA is a spiteful move (our nation should not punish children for their parents’ actions) that would waste talent and money in addition to the terrible toll in human costs. These people have no other home than the United States. Can you imagine if you were kicked out of the country and told to go back to your country? What country? A country you lived in as a baby perhaps? I can't imagine being forced to go to the Czech Republic or England — places that I only have connection to through my parents … I don't even speak the Czech of my father, just like many of these Dreamers don't speak the language of their parents.

Eliminating DACA is not just inhumane, it's bad economics.