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Costs and Consequences of Ending DACA: CATO Economic Study and Personal Testimonials Show Benefits of DACA and Pro-Immigrant Policies

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One of the first immigration battles of the incoming Trump administration centers on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the more than 750,000 young people it benefits. Despite DACA’s popularity and unqualified success, President-elect Trump, with the near-unanimous support of fellow Republicans, pledged to revoke DACA work permits and expose DREAMers to deportation. That promise remains intact today, despite vague and empty rhetorical assurances from Trump and other Republicans.

Below, we offer additional evidence about the consequences of repealing DACA:

Ike Brennan of the libertarian-leaning CATO Institute, writes a new op-ed in Forbes, “The High Costs Of An Immediate Repeal Of DACA,” summarizing his recent research highlighting the economic and fiscal toll that ending DACA would inflict on America. Brennan writes:

“an economic impact from repealing DACA of roughly $200 billion in the next decade, which is just over one percent of 2016 GDP. The loss of tax revenue would be approximately $60 billion. If we assume that the DACA beneficiaries do not leave the country upon its repeal but remain here and seek work illegally instead, the cost to the economy of repeal is smaller but still in the vicinity of $100 billion.

…The new president should encourage Congress to come up with a comprehensive immigration reform that reflects his preferences and that also reflects current economic realities. But to act unilaterally and repeal DACA would be a costly symbolic step that would do nothing to accomplish his overarching goals.”

Beyond the economic virtues, the ways that DACA recipients have utilized the policy to build lives here in America continue to be the most compelling reasons why the program must continue.  Examples below show not only how important it is for DACA to remain in place, but why Trump’s threat of a “deportation force” to round up other undocumented immigrants must be resoundly rejected.  Put simply, many undocumented immigrants have been living in and contributing to this country for decades.  It would be inhumane and un-American to tear them from their families.

Vikki Ortiz Healy writes for the Chicago Tribune, “Mixed-status Immigrant Families Fear Trump’s Policies to Come”:

“Each day when Consuelo Martinez drops her two children off at school, she is confronted with a contradiction: Her children are living a better life than she and her husband ever imagined when they came illegally to the U.S. 20 years ago. Yet she fears that all the advantages of their American life — a house with a mortgage, two steady jobs, special needs services for her 13-year-old daughter with autism — may be taken away under the incoming administration.

‘It’s a feeling of anguish knowing that Jan. 20 is coming and not knowing what will happen,’ Martinez, 46, of Chicago, said through tears. ‘I don’t know what will happen with my family. What will happen with my little house?’

Martinez’s fears are echoed by others like her: immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who are part of mixed-status families, with other family members — often children — who are U.S. citizens or are residing in the country legally. In Illinois, 87 percent of an estimated 511,000 immigrants in the U.S. illegally live in households with mixed-immigration status, according to a study from Rob Paral, a Chicago demographer. Their futures are uncertain given the potential changes supported by Trump — including deporting millions of people living in the U.S. illegally who are felons, building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers some children who entered the U.S. illegally the opportunity to stay in the country, work and attend college.

…Martinez said her biggest fear is that she and her husband will be deported and Chelsea will have no one to take her to doctor’s appointments and speech-therapy sessions. She has begun thinking about which relatives she would trust to care for her children in her absence.

…After years of worrying that her two eldest daughters would be denied opportunities that her two youngest children had as U.S. citizens, [Chicago resident Alma] Silva was relieved when the older girls were admitted to the federal program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in 2012. The measure allows children who came to the U.S. when younger than 16, among other requirements, to pursue American college educations and careers.

With a Social Security number provided by the DACA program, Silva’s eldest daughter graduated with honors from high school, then earned grants and scholarships that paid her way toward a degree in business management and social service from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Today, she manages a Mariano’s store, Silva said. Her second-oldest daughter earned a scholarship that pays for three years of schooling at Harold Washington University, where she is enrolled. ‘They are just starting with their lives,’ Silva said. ‘This is my big concern.’

Silva said that while she tries to understand politicians’ interests in keeping America safe, sweeping reforms like the ones proposed by Trump do not consider how cruel it would be to take away provisions offered legally by the U.S. government — such as DACA and Employment Authorization Documents, which allow hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who meet certain criteria to work and pay income tax.

‘These people don’t know the many histories of us,’ Silva said. ‘It’s not an easy life we have to live. It’s hard.’ … ‘Nobody’s going without a fight.’”

In a new Medium piece titled, What Will You Do If Donald Trump Deports Me?” Juan Escalante of America’s Voice reflects on what’s ahead for him and his family:

“I wrote this emergency plan in case Donald Trump’s deportation force tries to remove my family or me from the country. You should write one too.

…It would be naive to believe that Donald Trump would back off his anti-immigrant positions in just a matter of hours before his inauguration. So the president-elect’s threats have forced me to take every precaution against his imminent mass-deportation policies. If you are an ally, a friend, or a decent human being who understands that immigrants and refugees work hard, play by the rules and are proud aspiring Americans, then read this guide. I wrote it for the day that you witness the deportation of one of the eleven million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

First, show the world what my deportation looks like … My hope is that you, as a friend, advocate, or reader, will use online broadcasting tools like Facebook LIVE to show your friends, families, and community what Donald Trump’s mass deportation machine looks like. True, recording a deportation will be uncomfortable, difficult, and terrifying. Yet, if we are to resist Donald Trump’s deportation force, then the world must witness his draconian immigration enforcement tactics firsthand.

…In the end it comes down to each one of us. The fight against Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies depends on our communities.

…If you take away one thing from this post, then please let it be that deportations don’t just hurt immigrants and their families. They hurt our communities and our nation. Immigrant families are American families; there is no question about that. That is why I choose to do this work, and hopefully the reason that encourages you to join me in this epic struggle.”

Writing in the New York Times, Liz Robbins highlights how DACA recipients have relied on “advance parole” status to travel internationally and re-enter the United States legally – just one of the many benefits of DACA status:

“When the customs agent at John F. Kennedy International Airport stamped Jenifer Guzman Gonzalez’s Mexican passport on Monday, Ms. Guzman was too anxious to look at it. Back at her family’s apartment in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Ms. Guzman started crying as she flipped to Page 5. ‘PAROLED,’ read the blue-ink stamp from the United States Department of Homeland Security. On the line under the word ‘Purpose’ was the acronym: ‘DACA.’ ‘I didn’t want to look at it until I got home to savor the moment,’ she said.

…The stamp in her passport is proof that Ms. Guzman has entered the country legally, which she and others like her are hoping could one day be inoculation against whatever actions Donald J. Trump takes against undocumented immigrants after his inauguration on Friday. He has vowed to end the DACA program. While DACA may be fleeting, the stamp is forever, and for some, it might offer a small future benefit as well: If Ms. Guzman were ever to apply for a green card after marrying an American citizen, she would not have to return to Mexico and risk being turned down, as most immigrants who entered the country illegally currently must do. Adjusting her legal status would be far easier.

… [Ms. Guzman:] ‘There’s this saying: ‘Neither from here, nor from there,’’ she said. But one of the professors who went along on the trip, Alexandra Délano from the New School in New York, urged the students to try another, more positive interpretation: ‘From here and from there.’ Ms. Guzman liked that. Especially when she finally admired her passport and saw that her entry stamps were on the same page, the United States stamp on top of the Mexican one. ‘Yes, I’m from here and I’m from there,’ she said. ‘Even though I am not a U.S. citizen or resident, I was allowed back in because this is my home.’”