I have called the United States home since I was six years old, and even though I was considered illegal on paper, I was an American in my heart. My dreams of calling the U.S. home and pursuing my dreams of becoming a lawyer have been shaped by my experience under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
However, a federal judge ruling on July 16, 2021, partially ended DACA by blocking new enrollees. The basis for the judge’s ruling is that President Barack Obama exceeded his authority in creating the program, rendering DACA unconstitutional. While the Court’s order does not affect current DACA recipients, the decision illustrates why Congress must pass the Dream Act of 2021, which provides permanent relief and certainty for recipients.
Since its enactment on June 15, 2012, DACA has provided temporary relief from deportation and work authorization to approximately 643,560 undocumented young adults who arrived as children. However, there are currently 61,000 children aging into DACA eligibility, and the current DACA eligible population is 1,326,000. This federal ruling in total will shatter the dreams and hopes of 1,387,000 young adults from becoming productive members of society.
Currently, the DACA-eligible population has no other legal means of being legally taxed and contributing to economic output except through DACA. U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen’s decision will hinder an opportunity for the DACA-eligible population to become productive members of society that can make a significant contribution to the economy. The extra earning from taxed income can be utilized for government-funded services that keep families from falling into poverty and facing financial difficulties.
To be eligible for DACA, applicants must show they entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007. In addition, the applicant must also be enrolled in school, have graduated, or obtained a GED certificate. Applicants must also have no criminal convictions and pay a fee of $495.
According to data from the Center for American Progress, DACA recipients contributed $5.7 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes in 2019. Preventing new applicants from receiving DACA will ultimately mean federal, state, and local governments will lose access to significant future revenue streams, forcing them to reduce the services they provide or raise taxes.
Low-income Americans will be hurt the most if taxes are raised to supplement the taxes contributed by DACA recipients. High taxes erode wages and cause financial hardship on consumers. Financial hardship will hinder many consumers’ purchasing power and limit their ability to spend on goods and services or save.
DACA recipients have made significant contributions to U.S. economic output. According to research from the American Action Forum, in 2018, DACA recipients contributed $42 billion in annual GDP, with an average individual contribution to the economy of $109,000 per worker. Instead of limiting economic growth by preventing new enrollees into DACA, the U.S. should preserve DACA to maximize the economic contribution the DACA-eligible population can have in helping the economy recovery.
In a time when COVID-19 has devastated U.S. consumer spending, partially ending DACA will further impair consumer spending. In 2020, consumer spending decreased by more than half a trillion than in 2019. According to the New American Economy, the DACA eligible population hold $16.8 billion in spending power, contributions that will be lost if new enrollees are denied access to the program. Partially ended DACA jeopardizes this spending, denying more DACA consumers the ability to support local businesses.
DACA recipients are also more entrepreneurial than many Americans, outpacing Americans in terms of business creation. Studies have shown that five percent of DACA recipients have started their own businesses while only 3.1% of Americans have started their own businesses. Thus, partially ending the program will only limit an additional untapped source of future innovators, denying consumers access to new goods and services.
As of mid-March 2021, the COVID-19 recovery has created nearly 15 million job vacancies, many of which remain unfilled. DACA recipients provide an additional source of labor for businesses. Rather than partially ending the program and denying companies access to more DACA-eligible workers, passing the Dream Act could add 1,326,000 workers to the labor force. When Judge Andrew Hanen closed DACA to new recipients, he not only thrust millions into uncertainty, he also denied the U.S. economy and American consumers the numerous benefits its recipients have provided. Congress should recognize the broader ramifications of the judge’s decision and step in to provide certainty to DACA recipients. By doing so, Congress will also be guaranteeing tax revenue, spending power, labor, and entrepreneurship, all of which impact the lives of Americans and our communities.