The United States has millions of undocumented immigrants who came into the country as children before attaining the age of sixteen years, and their parents do not own legal residence in the US. This group of people accounts for 1.3 percent of the American population, and they live in fear of deportation. In 2001 the Congress aimed at passing DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) but they did not succeed, and in 2012 when the same Act was unable to go through despite 70 percent of Americans supporting it, President Obama came up with DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) initiative. This program was meant to protect the people who entered the US before reaching the age of sixteen from deportation and give them a temporary right of staying, studying and working in the US. Those who meet DACA requirements are called DREAMers, and this name came as are the result of the DREAM Act that was meant to allow those undocumented individuals who entered the US illegally before attaining the age of eighteen years a pathway towards achieving legal citizenship, as well as the right to study and work. As at February 2018, the number of undocumented immigrants was 11.3 million; out of this 3.6 million were DREAMers, 1.8 million were DREAMers qualifying for DACA program and 800,000 were the DREAMers on DACA protection program.
I have witnessed the undocumented immigrants live in pathetic conditions and working in a hostile environment because of the fear of being criminalized and deportation due to their immigration status, and this has caused many to suffer from mental problems due to stress associated with issue. The DACA program has benefitted a lot of DREAMers since its introduction, and because of it, they can now get accesses to employment and other opportunities as well as the nation is also gaining a great deal. With the Trump administration, the DREAMer might even suffer more if the DACA program is scraped as suggested. However, before this is done the government ought to look at the bigger picture of what deportation of about 11 million immigrants will do to the economy as well as the well being of the Americans citizens rather than basing their analysis on cost-benefit approach.
The Benefits of DACA program to the undocumented immigrants
The DACA program protects only those undocumented immigrants who entered the US while less than sixteen years and must be born after 1980. To qualify the DREAMer must be free of any criminal history, is a student, a holder of a high school degree or be among those discharged honorably from the military. Those DREAMers who receive the DACA protection are protected from deportation for two years upon which they can also renew. DACA recipients are also allowed temporal access to fundamental rights such as access to legal employment and obtaining of a driving license. Because of the opportunity granted to this people although on the temporary basis the effects on the beneficiaries of the DACA program has been significant. Under the program of DACA, recipients have benefited from many things including better mental health, higher social mobility and educational attainment. (Valerie et al., 180-193). This situation proves that if the undocumented immigrants can get rid of the uncertainties surrounding their lives they can play a very significant role in contributing to their families, communities and the economy of the United States in general.
As a result of the lack of citizenship I have seen some of the undocumented immigrant youths end up not finishing their college education since most of them come from low-status families, and since they are disqualified from the federal financial aid, they are unable to pay their college fee. Undocumented immigrants even if they possess academic qualification to land on well-paying jobs the job opportunities available to them are limited since they are not eligible to get a driving license and social security number. This situation makes the DREAmers unable to land on better jobs leaving them with low paying jobs in the informal sector as the only alternative. The DACA program has given the undocumented immigrants an opportunity to translate their academic achievements into a more successful career. This program helps in reducing the stress and anxiety exhibited by the undocumented immigrants due to the fear of being deported as well as the hardship they experience in their lives as a result of their immigration status. By giving the DREAMers the right to live and work in the USA as well as apply for a driving license and social security number they can now find well-paying jobs matching with their academic qualifications and work without stress; this has improved productivity significantly. Before introduction of DACA program the undocumented immigrants earned 20 percent lower than their documented counterparts with the same qualification (Figueroa-Santana, 2237). However, after the establishment of the DACA program in 2012 the undocumented immigrants on DACA program can now access job opportunities in the labor market and get paid equal wages as documented workers with similar experience and academic qualifications.
After the introduction of DACA program, the beneficiaries of the program were able to move to better jobs that were in line with their skills and also there has been an increase in the number of DREAMers being employed. In a study by Valerie et al., (p 180-193) the trend seen in the labor market concerning the number of DREAMers with DACA status acquiring jobs is attributed to the increased likelihood of the DACA recipients entering the job market to secure a position. Also, another reason why the rate of DREAMers getting employed is rising is that the higher-educated undocumented immigrants have shifted from seeking college enrollment to take the opportunities that now exist in the labor market as a result of reduced restrictions. In the study by Catalina Valerie and her colleagues they found out that after the establishment of the DACA initiative, the rate of employment of DREAMers with necessary qualifications had rose from 65 to 70 percent (Valerie et al., 180-193). The research findings further show that the DACA program has raised the National income of the United States by $7,454 for every DACA beneficiary employed leading to an overall increase in the Gross domestic product of $3.5 billion annually. The increase in productivity of the undocumented immigrants due to the effect of DACA has played a vital role in raising the national income and this account for 75 percent while a rise in the employment of those enrolled on the program has lead to 25 percent of the increase in this income.
Another impact that DACA initiative has on the employment is that it has also increased the rate of business creation amongst the DREAMers. In a study by Gershon Livia, it was found out that 5 percent of respondents started their own business after receiving DACA. From this, it is clear that the rate at which the DACA recipients are venturing into business is above that of the American citizens by 1.9 percent since from the survey carried out in 2017 it was 3.1 percent (Gershon). Due to the increase in business creation by the DACA recipients the local communities are benefitting significantly from the contributions these businesses have on the economic growth. Similarly, due to the protection that the DREAMers have and the ability to obtain a work permit and open firms as a result of the establishment of DACA, they are creating employment as well as contributing to the economic well being of the country through the taxes they pay to the government.
According to the study by Figueroa-Santana Bianca, it is evident that DACA has had a positive influence and a significant impact on the salaries. Since receiving DACA status, the respondents claim to have received an increase in wages from $10.29 per hour to $17.46 per hour which accounts for 69 percent increase. The annual median salary and the average yearly salary for the DREAMers aged 25 years and above rose up to $37,595 and $41,621, respectively (Figueroa-Santana, 2247). The increase in wages is not only vital to the DACA beneficiaries and their families but also plays a crucial role in revenue generation leading to the economic growth of the nation. The increase in DREAMers wages significantly increases their purchasing power as well. According to the report by the Center for American Progress, 65 percent of the DACA beneficiaries bought their first cars paying an average cost of $16,469 (Zatz). Such large purchases matter a lot in economic growth of the state because it leads to massive sales tax as well as title fees and registration fee. By allowing these DACA recipients to acquire driving licenses, the government benefits from revenues that they pay as insurance and renewal fee of their licenses.
Importance of the DREAMers to the US
There has been a notion that the undocumented immigrants if allowed to continue living and working here they will take the jobs meant for the Native American citizens as well as cost the well being of the US economy. However, this is a mere misconception. From research carried out by William Schwab, DREAMers who qualify to be DACA recipients work in almost all sectors of the US economy where they earn averagely a total of about $19.9 billion per year and out of this contribute 3 billion as a tax to state and the federal government. The remaining $16.8 billion they inject into the economy through spending. The argument that undocumented immigrants take jobs meant for the US citizens is baseless and invalid because, in California State, the business entities owned by these undocumented immigrants employ almost 1.5 million people (Schwab, 34). Therefore, the Congress should reconsider their stand on the issue of immigrants and pass the DREAMers Act that will see them develop and acquire permanent citizenship. The firms being established by the DREAMers fosters innovation, lead to job creation, and this significantly plays a role in propelling the economic growth of the nation.
For the economy of the United State to remain competitive, it should have in place well skilled, experienced and talented young human resource and since most of the undocumented immigrants are highly educated they play a vital role in covering the workforce shortage. The American competitive sectors like agriculture, technology, and construction heavily rely on these talented DREAMers and deporting them will lead to shrinking of the labor force hence adversely affecting the industries (Abrego, 339). From the survey, the American economy is characterized by an aging workforce who accounts for 70 percent of the predicted economic growth slowdown potential. Now the American economy needs new ideas, innovation, creativity as well as energy and this is why the US requires the DREAMers. In a study carried out by Laura in 2017, it was found out that out of the Fortune 500 companies 40 percent were started by the members of the immigrant community (Laura, 148).
Basing on the fact that five percent of the DACA recipients below the age of 25 years and eight percent of the those above 25 years have started their businesses it is clear that for the American economy to be sustainable America should attract more entrepreneurs from all over the world rather chase them away. Currently, about 700,000 DACA beneficiaries are working in the US firms, removing these workers from the nation will mean the employers must incur about $6.3 billion in recruiting, hiring and training new employees to replace the deported workers (Corrunker, 137). A situation like this will cost the American economy a loss of over 500,000 billion dollars in GDP over the next ten years.
All these said the fate of DACA and DREAMers still faces uncertainty. The Congress, the American general public and our President, have all shown the interest of saving and protecting the well being of Undocumented immigrants who came into the country before attaining sixteen years and have lived here and calls this nation their home. The Republicans, on the other hand, have stood firm to oppose this move, and all they want is see all immigrants gone. Because of the uncertainties surrounding the issue of disbanding the DACA program most of the DREAMers who had settled down in their jobs and those enrolled in colleges “are anxious, frustrated and blocked; they have difficulty continuing” (McLeod, 432). Considering the role the DREAMers play in the growth of our economy and for humanity reasons I believe passing the DREAM Act that will help these people acquire permanent residence will be for the best interest of all Americans.
After four years of experimenting DACA program to ascertain what impacts the undocumented immigrants can have on America if they are given the basic rights like pursuing education and working in America on a temporary basis it is evident that in addition to improving their living standards the program has had a tremendous impact on the economy as well. The DREAMers has lived in America long enough and have acquired American culture and spirit, and most of them are talented entrepreneurs that America needs to be a leading global economy. By deporting the undocumented immigrants, Americans will not gain by having more job opportunities as claimed by some people or will the government save money in public spending but what will happen will be shrinking labor force and loss of GDP. For this reason, it is in the best interest of every American if a permanent solution is found that will see the DREAMers granted permanent citizenship and allowed to take part in nation building.
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