Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an initiative of the Obama administration that has proven to be an enormous success with the 740,000 beneficiaries of the program, has yielded gains not just for the individual beneficiaries, but also for the communities in which they live, their employers, and government at all levels.
Ending the program, as the president-elect has vowed to do, comes with an economic downside. If DACA recipients lose their work authorization and no longer can work, they will lose their earnings, the economy will suffer and the government will lose tax payments. Two recent studies have estimated what the end of the DACA program would cost the U.S. economy, the Medicare and Social Security systems, and employers who will incur costs if they are forced to replace their workers.
Once in office, the new Administration will have to ask itself whether it really makes sense to have employers, communities, and governments incur such costs to reverse an initiative that has not only been a tremendous success for its recipients, but also popular with the general public. One can only hope that, after the transition has taken place, the business sense that Mr. Trump is reputed to have will translate to common sense with regards to the DACA initiative.
On one level, the views of President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Secretary appear to be aligned with his boss’s focus on securing the border. Kelly also supports enhanced border security, but he believes that a wall is not going to stop people from coming here. In Senate testimony early last year, he said that, “addressing the root causes of insecurity and instability is not just in the region’s interests, but ours as well.”
His more holistic approach to the region’s problems may clash with immigration hardliners that Trump has surrounded himself with. For them, it is sufficient to enforce immigration laws and to build barriers to keep people out.
How will Kelly’s more nuanced views about migration translate to DHS policy towards the women and children who Kelly knows are fleeing violence and instability? How will his views shape the treatment of millions of undocumented immigrants who are today so much a part of our communities?
A new report by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) on the issue of “brain waste” describes the most important factors that result in high-skilled immigrants being underemployed (that is, high-skilled immigrants in low-skill jobs) or unemployed. For the first time, this report estimates the earnings lost from underutilized immigrant skills.
MPI researchers determined that the 1.5 million high-skilled immigrants working in low-skill jobs earn a total of $39.4 billion less each year than they would if they were employed in jobs appropriate to their skill level. The forgone earnings translate into a total of $10.2 billion in lost state and local tax revenue, according to the report.
This new research gives advocates the tools to go to policy makers at the state and local level and show them what their return on investment will be when they support programs to help skilled immigrants gain whatever extra training they need to gain employment in high-paying jobs appropriate to their skill level. A modest investment of public funding will lead to a big boost in earnings and, as a result, a big boost in taxes paid.
A group that favors a hard line towards both legal and illegal immigration released a document with transition ideas for the incoming administration. There was nothing new in the document, which laid out the same extreme views that have mostly been on the margins of the immigration debate. What is new is the receptivity of those nominated to hold key posts with jurisdiction over immigration policy.
The dark views of the incoming president and his team make it very likely that restrictionist and extreme views on immigration will now be taken seriously. Their energy will be focused on preventing immigrants from coming to this country and on removing those who can be removed. Whether the president-elect spends more time and energy on immigration is unclear, however those he is putting in positions of power will no doubt keep their sights focused on these goals. Their views are antithetical to those of a welcoming, inclusive America where the success of all will be critical to our continued prosperity.
Read more comparing the views of some of President-elect Trump’s nominees with those of the anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform on my post on Immigration Impact.