Dreamers contribute to our economy

For the past five years, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has allowed some of the brightest young people in our communities to pursue their dreams and deliver significant benefits to the U.S. economy. Thanks to the contributions of DACA recipients — sometimes called Dreamers — our economy is stronger, we have more businesses, and our tax base is larger.

The Trump administration’s decision to end DACA is not only heartless, it risks harm to the U.S. economy by abandoning the entrepreneurs, talented workers and students we need to move our economy forward. Thursday, Oct. 5, is the last day for DACA recipients whose legal status is set to expire before March 5 to reapply for the program, which offers two-year work permits along with temporary relief from deportation. 

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The DACA program has empowered nearly 800,000 young people to come out of the shadows to work legally, get drivers licenses, go to college, serve in the military and give back to their communities.  More than 97 percent of DACA recipients are in school or in the workforce. I’ve had the privilege of meeting several Dreamers in my home state of New Mexico. These are young people who grew up here and don’t know how to be anything other than Americans. They are working to become doctors, scientists, lawyers, engineers and leaders in their communities. 

DACA recipients are entrepreneurial. Five percent of all enrollees in the program and 8 percent of those older than 25 years old have started their own businesses in the United States, compared to a rate of 3.1 percent for the U.S. population as a whole. We need these young entrepreneurs more than ever. Start-ups are a key source of job growth, but since the late 1970s, new firms as a share of all businesses in the United States have declined by almost half.

DACA has helped almost 70 percent of recipients secure a job with better pay, and better pay leads to major purchases. After their DACA applications were approved, nearly two-thirds of recipients reported buying their first car and almost one in six reported buying a new home. DACA recipients also pay billions of dollars in federal, state and local taxes.

Why would we kick out these key contributors to our economy? The economic impact of removing nearly 700,000 workers from the U.S. workforce would be staggering. It would cost our economy nearly half a trillion dollars in GDP loss over the next decade. American employers would be harmed, facing $6.3 billion in unnecessary turnover costs to recruit, hire and train more than 700,000 new employees.

Our nation depends on the infusion of ideas, creativity and energy that immigrants bring with them. Last year, all six of the American winners of the Nobel Prize in economics and scientific fields were immigrants. And immigrants or their children founded more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies. 

To succeed in today’s competitive global economy, the United States should be seeking to develop and attract the best talent in the world. That’s what leading American companies want and what Dreamers offer. Passing the Dream Act could add an estimated $281 billion to the U.S. economy over the next ten years. That’s why Apple CEO Tim Cook has called DACA “the biggest issue of our time.” 

The lives that Dreamers have built here in the United States reflect the very best of America. Every day, these talented young people add to the strength of our economy and the vitality of our nation. Recognizing their immense contributions, I joined 37 of my colleagues in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security requesting the Oct. 5 deadline be extended. In the wake of the devastating hurricanes that hit our nation, we must make sure Dreamers have the appropriate time and resources they need to submit what is a life changing permit. 

I will continue to stand with Dreamers and call on Congress to pass a comprehensive Dream Act that allows Dreamers to remain here and continue contributing to the only nation they call home.

Heinrich is ranking member of the Joint Economic Committee.