Small businesses need a clean DREAM Act — now

Small businesses need a clean DREAM Act — now
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For over five years, small businesses like mine and our communities have greatly benefited from the contributions of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, also known as "Dreamers."

Work authorization through DACA enabled many young immigrants to become small business owners, and, perhaps more importantly, higher employment rates and wages have enabled them to become small-business customers, boosting local and national economic growth.


When my wife and I opened a small homemade food store in 1985, we had no idea it was going to grow into what it is today. Now, over 30 years later, we’ve expanded it into a full-service catering company with 33 full-time employees and 80 part-time and seasonal workers.


One main reason our business has been able to grow and thrive is because of predictability and stability. But when the Trump administration unilaterally decided to end the DACA program last September, they destabilized communities across the nation and created unnecessary uncertainty around the status of Dreamers.

Dreamers are part of my employee base, and are valued members of my community. Eighty-seven percent of Dreamers are employed — many in small businesses like mine. When we hire staff, we’re looking for skilled and committed employees, regardless of where they happened to be born.

Terminating DACA would mean losing many of these hardworking employees, causing businesses to incur at least $3.4 billion in turnover costs and cutting U.S. gross domestic product by $433.4 billion over the next 10 years.

DACA recipients generate a substantial amount of tax revenue, helping to fund schools, infrastructure and health care. Repealing DACA would cause state and local tax revenues to fall by nearly $700 million annually, and much needed contributions to Social Security and Medicare would drop by $24.6 billion over the next decade.

As Dreamers see their wages increase under DACA (the average hourly wage of recipients increased by 69 percent after enrollment), their purchasing power increases, which means more money circulating through our local economies. 

After receiving DACA, 65 percent of recipients reported purchasing their first car, paying an average $16,469.  An additional 16 percent reported purchasing their first home. These large purchases reverberate throughout the economy, providing a critical boost to small businesses that rely on strong local economies to deliver a robust and sustainable customer base.   

Even though 80 percent of Americans support protections for Dreamers, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFor city parks: Pass the Great American Outdoors Act now US ill-prepared for coronavirus-fueled mental health crisis Schumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe MORE (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTwitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why Lobbying world John Ratcliffe is the right choice for director of national intelligence — and for America MORE (R-Wis.) refuse to bring the Dream Act up for a vote, and Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE has rebuffed a bipartisan deal while using highly insensitive language.  

While Republican leaders continue to hold protections for Dreamers hostage in exchange for more anti-immigrant policies, more than 16,000 Dreamers have lost their work permits and protection from deportation since September. 

Each day that Congress delays securing vital protections for Dreamers, 121 people lose their DACA protection, and Main Street businesses suffer.

Congress currently holds the fate of hundreds of thousands of young people in their hands. A clean Dream Act that ensures protection from detention and deportation, work authorization and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers is critical for an inclusive, healthy Main Street and must be tied to the next government spending bill.

David Borris is the owner of Hel’s Kitchen Catering, a gourmet catering company located near Chicago, Illinois. He is a Main Street Alliance Executive Committee member. Main Street Alliance is a national network of small businesses working in 16 states to advocate for small businesses on health care, financial reform and other national and local issues.