The Dream Act of 2017 for DACA youth: A must pass bill

Why the urgent need for the Dream Act of 2017 (S. 1615, H.R. 3440)?

For the young adults who currently have DACA status , the U.S. is their home.  They have grown up here, have gone to school here, and many of them have no memories of the countries where they were born. A majority of them have U.S. citizen immediate family members, and are our neighbors, classmates, workers, and friends.  In every sense except their birth certificates, they are Americans.   Penalizing them for decisions their parents made for them is inhumane.

Just as important, our economy needs them.   They are educated, ambitious, integrated, English-speaking….. and are entering our workforce at the same time that we need workers to replace our retiring Baby Boom generation.  Nearly 92% of them are working and paying taxes, with over 45% of them doing so while simultaneously attending universities, and 17% of those are pursing graduate degrees.  Those who are not working typically are full time students.

There are several hundred DACA holders in Maine. They range from the full-time university student majoring in a STEM field who also has his own business employing several U.S. workers, to the woman working full-time in shipbuilding while going to college part-time, to the man who has lived in Maine for nearly 20 years, and supports his two U.S. citizen children through his job on a northern Maine farm. As the nation’s oldest state, with a shrinking labor pool as “baby boomers” retire, Maine cannot afford to lose the potential of these young adults.

About 800,000 young adults nationwide have DACA.   That’s 800,000 people who will no longer be eligible to work due to DACA’s termination.  That’s thousands of employers nationwide that will lose employees whom they’ve already invested in training, and who are part of their teams.  It’s future doctors, engineers, architects, teachers, nurses, etc. currently enrolled in universities, who won’t be able to finish their degrees.  It’s also consumers who will no longer have earnings to spend. Beginning March 6, 2018, each day, approximately 1400 DACA holders will lose their DACA status and their permission to work.

The economic costs if there is no fix to this problem are enormous. Those with DACA not only work, but they spend their earnings too, on tuition, consumer goods, and they pay taxes. A recent survey of over 3000 DACA holders found that after obtaining DACA, their average wages increased by 69%. Sixty-five percent of them bought their first cars, and nearly a quarter of DACA holders over age 25 bought their first homes. The U.S. will lose a projected $60 billion in tax revenues, including contributions to Social Security and Medicare, and will experience a $460.3 billion drop in the Gross Domestic Product over a decade if DACA holders lose their legal status. U.S. employers will spend an estimated $6.3 billion in turnover costs to replace their DACA employees.

Forcing DACA youth to leave the U.S. or back into the shadows would not just be cruel, it would be bad for our economy and for the communities of which they are vital members. The Dream Act of 2017, S. 1615, H.R. 3440, has been reintroduced with bipartisan support in Congress. It’s up to Congress to act quickly to pass a clean Dream Act, so that DACA/Dreamers can reach their full potential in the country that is their real home.