New Mainers are part of the solution to Maine’s demographic problems and help us fill labor needs. Beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), or “Dreamers”, are those who came to America as minors, have built and maintained their lives here, and know no other place as home. That is why we need to stop the efforts to dismantle DACA and allow Dreamers to fully participate and contribute to our economy.
Five years ago, under President Obama, the Department of Homeland Security issued guidelines that allowed young undocumented people, called “Dreamers” after the proposed 2001 DREAM Act, to receive temporary relief from deportation and to qualify for work permits. But now, Dreamers are under threat, despite a clear majority of Americans favoring giving them the right to live and work here. This past June 10 states issued a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for the Trump Administration to dismantle DACA. And despite twice as many states responding asking President Trump to defend DACA, the attorney general favored the states and localities push to dismantle DACA. Former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly also told members of Congress that “he can’t guarantee that the administration would defend [the DACA program] in court.”
Ending DACA is bad for the economy
Under DACA, both Dreamers and the American economy have benefited. In a recent study, researchers found that Dreamers saw wages increase by up to 42 percent and had better jobs and better worker conditions. In that same study, researchers also found that 6 percent of Dreamers started their own business. This has led to an uptick in more state and local revenue as Dreamers moved up in the economy.
In two separate studies, one by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and another by the Center for American Progress, showed that driving Dreamers out of the labor force and into the shadows would cost the American economy $433.4 billion in GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare contributions.
DACA Recipients in Maine
In Maine, Dreamers are able to take classes at in-state tuition rates thanks to the University of Maine System. This allows them the education needed to fully participate and contribute to Maine’s economy and labor force.
In addition, Maine’s immigrant population as a whole are part of the solution in solving Maine’s demographic problems. Maine’s towns and cities, businesses and universities all recognize the benefits of immigration in providing the population growth needed to sustain economic growth. Nancy Griffin, vice-president for enrollment management and student affairs at the University of Southern Maine, was recently quoted in the Bangor Daily News saying, “With Maine’s aging population and workforce, it is extremely important for the state to keep and educate young immigrants, including DACA recipients. We want to them to remain in the state Maine. We need them.”
Going after innocent Dreamers who came to America as children, and are now participating in and contributing to our economy, will have a negative impact on the economy in the form of slower GDP growth and lost contributions to Medicare and Social Security. Dismantling DACA will harm our economy and unjustly punish those who came to the U.S. as children; children who grew up in America and know no other place as home. Instead, the focus should be on how we can best integrate and include them into the fabric of American society and economy; not on policy rollbacks that split families up and creates more problems than it solves.