House Republicans on the Subcommittee on Health Care and Financial Services are holding a hearing attacking beneficiaries of one of the most popular and successful immigration programs in recent modern U.S. history.
The hearing, “Why Expanding Medicaid to DACA Recipients Will Exacerbate the Border Crisis,” is absurd on its face because immigrants who arrived to the U.S. as children years ago have nothing to do with today’s challenges at the southern border. “This blatantly stupid formulation intentionally confuses how forced global migration actually works, not to mention a confusion about how time works,” tweeted America’s Voice Political Director Zachary Mueller. The hearing also attempts to raise concerns about “taxpayer-funded services” while blatantly ignoring the fact that DACA recipients are also U.S. taxpayers.
First, the facts (not that facts matter to these anti-immigrant zealots): No new applications for DACA can be made because of a lawsuit launched by indicted and impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and a slate of GOP attorneys general.
Second, in order to be eligible for DACA, applicants must have continuously resided in the U.S. since 2007, and must have been physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012.
Even if DACA were fully operational and accepting first-time paperwork, no one – not one person – arriving at the border today would be eligible to apply. So the claim that the decade-old program is enticing more migrants to arrive is a ridiculous notion, and yet, Republicans in Congress are holding a hearing premised on this fiction. Republicans are also making this bold claim as they’re the ones literally yelling that the border is “open,” adding to the disinformation and creating a market where criminal cartels sell this false hope that the southern border is wide open, when it isn’t.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, for example, has claimed that “we simply have open borders,” that the Biden administration gives new migrants “benefits,” and that it will “let them stay.” But the Biden administration isn’t the one saying that, it’s Ted Cruz.
The GOP majority also ignores the vast financial contributions of DACA recipients, who contribute payroll taxes thanks to the work permits and Social Security numbers assigned to them because of the program. Of the current DACA population, nearly 80% of beneficiaries are employed, making significant contributions to their communities and states. Per an analysis from FWD.us earlier this year, DACA recipients contribute an estimated $13.3 billion to our economy annually. They are teachers, first responders, and business owners. “DACA recipients are outpacing the general population in terms of business creation,” the Center for American Progress (CAP) said.
Monica Hernandez is among them. She runs an online store selling jewelry and accessories and has dreams of expanding her business. DACA’s uncertainty means her business is also uncertain. “I could continue to operate without DACA, but I’d be doing so in the shadows, constantly afraid that my thriving business would be dismantled in the blink of an eye,” she told San Antonio Report last year. “Ultimately, that would mean lost jobs and tax dollars for my community.”
CAP estimated in 2021 that DACA recipient households contribute $6.2 billion in federal taxes alone, contributing to Medicaid and other programs that Republicans believe should be off-limits to them. DACA recipients’ contributions are far-reaching. “They own 68,000 homes, making $760 million in mortgage payments and $2.5 billion in rental payments annually, money that could be in jeopardy if DACA goes away.”
Not to mention that these tax dollars have been helping fund the Medicaid program that DACA recipients are only just recently able to access in a very limited way as part of a broader initiative to give DACA recipients access to affordable health care, and which is at the center of the GOP complaint.
“My family is just one of tens of thousands of mixed status families with a DACA recipient,” As Yuna Oh, Political Associate for America’s Voice and a DACA recipient, said at the time of the rule change. “Being able to access affordable healthcare is a huge benefit that will only increase the quality of life for me and my family. We will be unafraid to go to a simple doctor check-up and have the cost break our savings. We can plan out our future a little more with stability, rather than living on the edge. Having access to affordable healthcare was always seen as a luxury when it shouldn’t be. Opportunities for DACA recipients and other Dreamers is not just a good thing for families like mine but for our entire country.”
In attempting to end the DACA program through lawsuits in friendly venues in the courts, Republicans are saying that DACA beneficiaries should no longer have the ability to work legally, and should lose their protections against deportation. Not only would families and our economy suffer from the loss of hundreds of thousands of young people, but federal programs that depend on tax dollars and are at the center of GOP hearings — like this week’s Subcommittee on Health Care and Financial Services hearing — would also suffer.
Of course, it’s not the first time we’ve seen DACA blamed for something related at the border. This is actually just a rehashed argument from another time Republicans controlled the chamber. Republicans also tried to conflate the two when tens of thousands of vulnerable children arrived at the border in search of asylum back in 2014.
“Conservatives say the policy, which newly arrived undocumented immigrants don’t qualify for, has acted as a magnet, pulling young migrants from the violence-plagued and poverty-stricken countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala,” Huffington Post reported at the time. “But there’s virtually no evidence to support this increasingly popular conservative talking point.” It was an excuse to not act on immigration then (the GOP House had recently rejected the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate), and remains an excuse to not act on immigration now. The only difference is that Republicans have intensified their attacks on immigration and DACA. Case in point, attacking the very lives and livelihoods of DACA recipients, who are overwhelmingly popular.
“The GOP has made it abundantly clear that they are going to again continue to make their nativist political attacks a central part of their electoral strategy (despite it failing to deliver for the last several cycles),” Mueller continued. He said the House hearing “is a blatant example of just how completely unserious the GOP is about immigration & border policies. It reveals them as they actually are, not interested in reality but in the racialized political lie of a zero-sum game.”