Repealing DACA: An Empirical Review
On September 5th, Attorney General Sessions announced the end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), which is planned to occur over a six month period. The President, through the Attorney General and tweets, has further indicated that this suspension is in line with his constitutional authority, reinforcing his push on Congress to pass immigration reform.
This action, of course, has resulted in backlash from pro-immigration groups on the left, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer condemning Trump’s, “...terribly wrong order…” Other groups have rather arduously contended that Trump’s move will not only damage the lives of those under DACA, but damage the American economy as a whole.
To understand DACA, one must first understand the status quo. Currently, it is predicted that the DACA program affects over 800,000 individuals in the United States. These individuals must prove to the government that: (a) they possess no criminal record; (b) they have been continuously living in the United States since 2007; (c) arrived in the United States before the age of 16; and (d) are currently enrolled in high school, college, or another approved occupation. Even then, these individuals aren’t necessarily legal, and must reapply after 2 years.
Fundamentally, this program has several problems with it. Firstmost, there is evidence that DACA depletes public funds and damages the social safety net. At the University of California system, for instance, officials have already promised over $25.2 million to illegal immigrants studying at UC schools. $2.5 million is alone appropriated solely to assisting illegal immigrants to purchase textbooks, and another $900,000 is allocated to legal assistance. More specifically, at universities such as UC Irvine, administrators offer free legal and social services to illegal students covered under DACA, including work studies, grants, and loan programs, all of which are not offered to American citizens. Exclusive loan programs are also included in these benefits. To add to this already unfair program, much of this funding is explicitly political, with UC Irvine posting articles accusing the Republican Party of using “white nativism” to win elections. And while the UC system begins to enforce caps on out of state Americans, they have imposed no such barriers on illegal immigrants. Worse, many of these universities, such as UCI which has already rejected 499 students because of over-enrollment, have continued to accept illegal immigrants. The system, it seems, favors illegal immigrants while throwing Americans under the bus.
Secondly, the larger institutional damages that emerge from DACA, while being immense, are less apparent. While it is true that the average immigrant under DACA is less prone to directly engage in crime, and more likely to have a job or education, these immigrants also tend to bring with them other illegal immigrants. Specifically, the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found, in a survey of 452 DACA recipients from UCLA, that 70% of those surveyed answered that they had family members illegally in the United States. Most of these respondents also reported that many of their family members required support. Moreso, the presence of increased illegal immigrants is self-evident: since the Obama administration implemented the rule, research has found the number of illegal immigrants eligible for DACA has doubled to 1.9 million. A clear example of this occurrence is the 2014 immigration crisis, when over 68,000 children illegally crossed the border into the United States. The impact, simply put, is that DACA creates an incentive for illegal immigrants to bring their families and relatives to America with them, falsely believing that the DACA program creates legal entitlement to their family members. This is especially problematic as a meta-analysis compiled by the Congressional Budget Office found that illegal immigrants, by some estimates, cost up to $100 billion per year, even after accounting for sales tax and other contributions by illegal immigrants. The Congressional Budget Office additionally found that a bulk of the costs for illegal immigrants come from their use of social services, such as free housing, food, healthcare, and education. Overall, this means that DACA was a serious contributing factor to the illegal immigration problem, as it significantly increased the number of individuals that were in need of state support.
However, many pro-DACA groups cite the potential cost of repealing DACA on the economy. These numbers, while ranging upwards of $400 billion, are fundamentally skewed. For instance, were we to look at the CATO article, which makes the claim that the aggregate cost to society from repealing DACA would be over $200 billion, it is important to notice that the CATO Institute included a specific concern to their methodology:
Most of this high cost is driven by the fact that the “dreamers” tend to do well in school and as a result do well in the job market after they complete their education.
The conclusion, it seems, is that the majority of these costs are not direct cost to the government, but from lost jobs.
There are three problems with this analysis.
First, Americans need these jobs. While there have been claims there are more technology jobs than applicants, empirical evidence from the census bureau showed that 74% of those with bachelor degrees in STEM do not actually work in STEM occupations, indicating that employers are simply unwilling to hire from a domestic population. Evidence of wage stagnation further supports this conclusion, with companies preferring cheap, H-1B visa holders, or in this case, DACA applicants, over their pricey counterparts. Simply put, jobs are not everywhere, despite what tech companies mislead individuals into believing.
Secondly, even were we to assume that there is a deficit of technology jobs on the marketplace, H-1B holders, all of whom are legal, solve this problem in its entirety. Better yet, these H-1B visas increase tax revenues while not costing the taxpayer the money for education. Thus, by simply adjusting the rates of immigration under H-1B, we can effectively avoid the costs associated with DACA.
Finally, money saved on DACA could be easily reinvested back into the United States, such as providing the necessary funds to appropriate into Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which would boost economic activity and employment. Specifically, research shows that only a $250 billion investment would create over 3 million long term jobs, which will help create jobs, thus fueling the economy.
Thus, there is nearly no true cost to society on a whole by the repeal of DACA, and if anything, such action would represent a net positive as wages increase for the average American.
The proposed solution, however, is possibly worse than the disease itself: amnesty. Not only would such a proposal be estimated to cost the United States over $2.6 trillion dollars through massive increases in educational and welfare costs, but it would be betraying the legal immigrants, many of whom pay thousands of dollars and years of their life, all to navigate the rightly difficult process of American citizenship. Should we suddenly flood the gates of immigration, not only are we betraying the American taxpayer, but also the immigrants who followed the law. Therefore, I advocate a simple policy: Law and Order.
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