As families come together to celebrate the holidays, on the minds of many immigrant families is the worry that this may be their last holiday season with their loved ones. This is because the recent termination of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program threatens the ability for thousands of young immigrants—often called “Dreamers”—to remain in the country. In Michigan, 5,400 undocumented immigrants currently enrolled in DACA stand to lose their ability to work and go to school without fear of deportation.
A new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy focuses on the positive impact that DACA has had on the lives of thousands of Michigan’s immigrants, and the many ways these young Dreamers contribute to our state.
Advocates are calling on Congress to address this crisis before the end of the year by passing the DREAM Act, a bipartisan bill that would create a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants whose futures hang in the balance. Every day that Congress stalls the passage of the DREAM Act, 122 individuals across the country lose their DACA status and become at risk of deportation.
DACA was established in 2012 by President Barack Obama in an effort to address the needs of young undocumented immigrants who arrived to the country as minors. DACA provides temporary protection from deportation and work authorization (applicants must apply for renewal after two years). On Sept. 5, 2017, the U.S. Attorney General announced the end of the program via a six-month phasing out period. With the end of the program, Dreamers now have numbered days with their DACA status, and thousands have already seen their status expire since the announcement.
Since its inception, more than 790,000 immigrant youth across the country have been able to achieve better opportunities through the DACA program. In Michigan, DACA beneficiaries work hard, go to school and give back to their communities and local economies. Here are some important characteristics of DACA participants:
- The majority (53%) of DACA beneficiaries across the country are women, and two-thirds of them are 25 years of age or younger.
- Across the country, DACA program participants are largely concentrated in densely populated urban areas. Detroit, for example, is one of 20 metro areas across the country where three-quarters of all DACA beneficiaries reside.
- Collectively, DACA participants make up 382,400 workers in our country’s labor force. Meanwhile, a large majority (62%, 154,108) of those not in the labor force were enrolled in school.
Despite the many different ways Dreamers contribute to our culture and our economy, lawmakers continue to drag their feet when it comes to passing a permanent solution. The consequences of ending DACA and the dreams of thousands of young immigrants will be immediately felt. Among other losses, researchers estimate that Michigan will lose $13 million in state and local tax revenue and $418 million in annual economic activity if all DACA beneficiaries are deported. The loss in tax revenue is equivalent to the cost of 220 teacher salaries in Michigan.1 This loss would prevent our state leaders from being financially able to make important investments in our schools, our hospitals and our communities.
The introduction of the DACA program was a good first step in modernizing our immigration system. Its loss means countless lost opportunities for immigrant youth and for our communities. For these reasons, investing in this generation of immigrant youth should be a key priority for our state and federal governments. Dreamers and their families have waited long enough. Lawmakers should act now to pass the DREAM Act.
— Victoria Crouse
1. Fiscal Policy Institute (FIP) analysis of Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) tax revenue data and National Education Association (NEA) data on teacher salaries.