Ever since the Trump administration decided to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in September, tens of thousands of North Carolinians’ lives have been plunged into turmoil. It is now up to Congress to pass a viable long-term solution, or risk tearing families apart, undermining our economy, and throwing a wrench into public finances.
The simplest solution is to pass the Dream Act, legislation that would codify the basic deal that DACA offers to undocumented immigrants brought here as children who commit to furthering their education and staying out of trouble with the law.
In addition to the stability and opportunity each “DACAmented” individual would obtain through a legislative fix, analysis by the Center for American Progress estimates that passing the Dream Act would increase North Carolina’s long-term economic output by at least $550 million per year, an impact that could grow to almost $2 billion annually if at least half of the people eligible for DACA pursue higher education.
The wide range of possible benefits underscores the importance of passing a bill that provides a pathway to permanent legal status, without adding a raft of draconian measures that target DACA recipients and their families. The greatest economic benefits will occur if DACA recipients are free to invest in their educations and pursue upwardly-mobile careers, which is what the Dream Act is designed to do. Any efforts to pair DACA status with greater surveillance of immigrant communities, new provisions that would make it easier to deport recipients and their families, or other mechanisms designed to drive immigrant communities further into the shadows will only prevent DACA recipients and the state’s economy from reaping the full benefit of the law.
Economists from across the political spectrum agree that ending DACA would hurt North Carolina’s economy. As we reported previously, the Cato Foundation predicts that ending DACA could cost North Carolina $7.8 billion over the next decade, a figure that is within the range estimated by the Center for American Progress.
State and local government coffers would also take a hit if Congress fails to pass the Dream Act, or another effective solution. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that current DACA recipients pay almost $58 million in state and local taxes, contributions which could grow to $78 million if the Dream Act were passed, the equivalent of 1,600 teacher positions in North Carolina. Particularly given that we have already invested in educating many of the young people eligible for DACA, turning down their contributions to the fiscal future of the state would be pure folly.
Thus far, Congress has failed to move legislation that would actually avert these dire outcomes for DACAmented individuals, their families, and our state. The Trump Administration created an artificial crisis by ending DACA without a replacement plan, so its time for Congress to step up and prevent the breakup of families and the breakdown of major portions of North Carolina’s economy.
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