DACA — Congress now faces a defining moment that could cost our nation
© Greg Nash

The president’s decision on Tuesday to punt on the future of 800,000 young men and women who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, often referred to as “Dreamers,” is deeply disappointing, to put it lightly.

Despite the president’s promise to Dreamer’s that they should rest easy, here’s now a countdown clock for DACA recipients to remain in a protected legal status before being considered “undocumented.” This now becomes a defining moment for Congress to unite and act swiftly in passing meaningful legislation that would protect Dreamers.

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The case here is two-fold; preserving DACA is, without a doubt, a moral issue in which we must, as Americans, come together and demonstrate to the world that we don’t punish children for the decisions of their parents. However, there’s also a strong economic case for ensuring that these 800,000 Dreamers are able to legally stay in this country, which lawmakers must begin to understand.

 

First, let’s dispel of any myth that Dreamers are somehow dangerous, or a burden to the American taxpayer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those who are recipients of DACA have already passed extensive background checks conducted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure they do not pose a threat to our national security. In fact, according to DHS requirements, an individual’s request for DACA may be considered only if they “have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.”

Second, the American taxpayer is in no way burdened by Dreamers. DACA applicants are solely responsible for paying their own application and renewals fees, and are automatically ineligible to receive taxpayer funded welfare benefits. In fact, deporting the 800,000 Dreamers would actually cost the American taxpayer an estimated $60 billion, according to the Cato Institute.

The economic impact of terminating DACA and potentially deporting the 800,000 would be devastating, to say the least. Our nation’s economic growth would see a $280 billion reduction over the next decade alone. With a current national debt that’s closing in on $20 trillion, the potential addition of another $340 billion to the national debt should hopefully sound the alarms for members of Congress to realize that addressing this issue is as an economic imperative.

Furthermore, the reality we face is that the average DACA recipient is 22 years old, and according to reports, we’re seeing roughly 65,000 graduate from High School and another 10,000 graduate from college annually. Meaning that these Dreamers are actively entering the workforce, advancing in their educational studies, starting businesses, and contributing to our national, state, and local economies each and every day.

Terminating DACA would also be a tremendous economic burden for our American businesses to take on, which would ultimately affect their ability to increase production and job creation domestically. The CATO Institute recently concluded that, “if the federal government forces employers to fire all of DACA recipients, it will cost employers $6.3 billion.” Also calculating that “every week U.S. employers will have to terminate 6,914 DACA employees at a weekly cost of $61 million.”

Regardless of whether you believe that President Obama’s executive order to protect Dreamers was unconstitutional or not, the fact of the matter is that we currently have 800,000 young men and women in this country relying on the legal protection of DACA. What we as a nation decide to do next is crucial.

If there was ever a time for bipartisanship and leadership in our nation’s capital, now would be the right time. A recent poll conducted by Morning Consult found that 78 percent of registered voters believe that Dreamers should be able to stay. There should be no reason for lawmakers to make this a partisan issue.

Congress now faces a defining moment in our nation’s history. The rest of the world is watching us. So, if we want to continue being a nation, which for time immemorial has embraced free-markets, immigration, competition and innovation, then we must stand up for Dreamers. Failure to do so could cost our nation in more than one way.

Kevin Hernandez is the Vice President of Policy & Public Affairs at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. A proud Floridian and first-generation American of Colombian descent, Kevin received his B.A. from Florida International University and is currently pursuing a Master’s in International Commerce & Policy from the Schar School at George Mason University. Hernandez was most recently named to Maverick PAC’s “Future 40” 40 under 40 list. You can find him on Twitter: @Khernandez_DC


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