Donald Trump decided, despite promises made here and there, that he would renounce former President Barack Obama’s policy towards children who had come to the United States without papers. These children, now close to a million, had entered the country with their parents. Obama’s executive action, named Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), allowed these young people to apply for a work permit and claim some important benefits of United States residency. To take advantage of DACA, these young people had to come out of the shadows and register voluntarily with the US Department of Homeland Security. The US government, in other words, was able to get information on almost a million people who did not have papers. This act of good faith, to register with the government, will now make it easier for the government to find, arrest and deport them.
These young people, the Dreamers, will be arrested merely for having registered with the government and will be sent to countries where they have never lived and whose languages – in many cases – they do not speak. Since their parents did not register, and still mostly live in the shadows, these Dreamers will be separated from their families and sent off on their own. Little wonder then that there is widespread anger at this action by Trump, not least because he had promised often not to take this action.
Data on the Dreamers are quite astonishing. Over 90 per cent of them have jobs and pay taxes (almost $2 billion, according to one study earlier this year). The Dreamers that one encounters are often supremely grateful for Obama’s policy since it allowed them to take advantage of state-subsidised college tuition even though later in life they have not been afforded social protections (such as food stamps and government medical insurance schemes). These young people, then, pay into the US exchequer without being able to take advantage of whatever social security net remains for the US population.
Trump and his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, make the claim that DACA is illegal. It circumvents US immigration law and gives immigrants without documentation the hope that they, too, can take advantage, at some later date, of such a scheme. To prevent producing an impression that the US government encourages undocumented immigration, the Trump administration wishes to crack down on DACA. It will take at least six months for the government to unravel the DACA programme, but even then there are going to be important, and rarely discussed, practical problems before the administration. One study finds that it will take a minimum of $12,500 to arrest and deport each of the Dreamers.
Since there are effectively a million Dreamers, the total bill for the repeal of DACA will be $12.5 billion, more than twice the total annual budget of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. How Trump’s administration proposes to raise this kind of money to conduct these deportations has not been made clear. A conservative Cato Institute study found that the total cost to the US economy for the DACA repeal would be $200 billion. It found that the average Dreamer is 22 years old, either employed or studying. Since leaving school might result in deportation, a very large number (17 per cent) of the Dreamers finish college and pursue advanced degrees. “It is important to note that these estimates are conservative,” wrote the authors of the report.
In fact, the negative impact on the US economy might be much greater than the $200 billion that they estimate. California will be the hardest hit. The departure of the Dreamers will cause a loss of nearly $85 billion to the State.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Going After the Dreamers’.