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On Dreamers and the Vital Contribution of Immigrants, Democrats Should Welcome the Economic, Political and Moral Fight

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Vanessa Cárdenas: “This is a fight Democrats can win and should welcome. Getting the economy right, combating demographic and labor market shortfalls, and fighting inflation means embracing pro-immigrant policies.”

Washington, DC – This week’s announcement that the Biden administration will expand Affordable Care Act (ACA) eligibility to include DACA recipients is a positive step forward from a policy and political perspective.

As Republicans’ relentlessly scapegoat migrants and asylum seekers and as the border has sucked up most immigration-related attention, opportunities to deliver concrete policy steps forward and draw attention to long-settled undocumented populations such as Dreamers and other immigrants’ contributions are important areas for refocus – and present a beneficial contrast with Republicans.

Typical of the GOP reaction to the DACA health care eligibility announcement was the tweet from Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI), shared by Michelle Hackman in Wall Street Journal: “Biden opened your borders for millions of illegal aliens. Now he wants to open your wallets for them, too.”

While the President’s announcement was not about letting more immigrants come here, but rather how we fully integrate those already working and living here, Republican opposition to immigration is clear. They want to demonize it and the immigrants themselves. 

The latest column from New York Times and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman offers part of the rejoinder. It’s titled, “How Immigrants Are Saving the Economy” and includes:

“you may not have heard about one ingredient in the economy’s special sauce: a sudden, salutary rebound in net immigration, which soared in 2022 to more than a million people, its highest level since 2017. We don’t know whether this rebound will last, but it has been really helpful. It’s an exaggeration, but one with some truth, to say that immigrants are saving the U.S. economy.

…the case for increased immigration is even stronger. Long-run concerns about U.S. finances are largely driven by a rising old-age dependency ratio, which considers the growing percentage of seniors relative to the total adult population, both seniors and people of working age. If we define working age as running from 18 to 64, the overall U.S. old-age dependency ratio — calculated from the same census data — is 27.5 percent. For foreign-born residents who arrived after 2010, the ratio is only 5.8 percent. Basically, new immigrants pay into the system, but they won’t be drawing much in the way of benefits for many years to come.

So the resurgence of immigration is, from an economic point of view, a good thing all around. And a rational political system, one that wasn’t being misled by false claims about immigration and crime, would welcome a sustained immigration revival.”

Also see this week’s Marketplace story, “Immigration is slowly increasing after a stark pandemic drop,” that highlights quotes from economists and labor experts making clear how immigrants can play a role in combating tight labor markets and rising inflation.

The vast majority of the country recognizes immigrants’ contributions – there’s a reason that in poll after poll, year after year, citizenship for Dreamers and long-settled immigrants gains 70-plus percent support from the country.

According to Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

“Despite the proven successes and popularity of DACA and other measures that provide opportunities for Dreamers to more fully participate in American life, Republicans continue to try and end DACA in the courts, block legislative solutions involving citizenship in Congress, and actively and purposefully oppose other pro-immigrant policies that strengthen our economy, our communities and our social cohesion.

This is a fight Democrats can win and should welcome. Getting the economy right, combating demographic and labor market shortfalls, and fighting inflation means embracing pro-immigrant policies that include support and citizenship for Dreamers and the undocumented population and opening new legal channels and pathways for people who will replenish our workforce and become workers in vital industries. 

The important conversation about asylum and the border cannot continue to overshadow the reality that there are other immigrant populations and policies that deserve attention – and that provide Democrats a place to go and an essential contrast with Republicans. The President should feel confident leaning in to use the powers he has under current law – such as granting TPS to vulnerable populations – and expect support from voters when he does.”