Cynthia Phinney and Dana Connors argue in a recent BDN OpEd that ending DACA, causing the “Dreamers” in Maine to lose their work permits, would cost the Maine economy $3.9 million annually in lost GDP. And since we’re an aging population, we will need the 93 working-age DACA youth in Maine, assuming they decide to stay.
The authors argue that the situation is “urgent,” that Dreamers face deportation, and they need a legislative solution to live and work here permanently.
Let’s take a closer look.
First, the numbers. About 800,000 Dreamers applied for DACA program, created under President Barack Obama. But if we examine the Dreamer legalization bills currently in Congress, the total is much bigger.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates that between 2 million and 3.5 million meet the minimum requirements to be Dreamers under these legalization bills. And this doesn’t include future sponsorship of parents and extended family, if Dreamers get citizenship.
Legalizing Dreamers doesn’t end illegal immigration. Homeland Security recently reported that 629,000 foreign visitors overstayed their visas in 2016, joining the illegal population, and that doesn’t include the southern border crossers.
Illegal immigration is not a victimless crime. Illegal immigrants and their employers collude in document fraud (a felony), identity theft (felony) and tax evasion (misdemeanor or felony, depending on the size of the evasion), and virtually none are prosecuted.
Immigration, legal and illegal, is driving down American wages, forcing vulnerable groups to compete against each other, and placing huge fiscal costs on the American taxpayer, much more than immigration contributes, as documented by the National Academy of Sciences.
The children of illegal immigrants, the Dreamers, were innocent of their parent’s crimes, and they are a sympathetic group. But, as a nation, we’re divided on how to deal with their dilemma.
Although the majority of Americans don’t want Dreamers deported, they don’t necessarily want to reward everyone with citizenship, either. And the reality is, deportation has never been a serious threat. Obama announced that his administration would focus immigration enforcement on terrorists and violent criminals, and President Donald Trump made a similar promise. The real issue is jobs and citizenship, not deportation.
Although Americans agree on allowing Dreamers to stay, we’re divided on a crucial issue: Should we provide a path to citizenship that allows Dreamers to sponsor their parents, who were not innocent, or should we simply provide permanent legalization, allowing them to stay, keep their jobs and enjoy most benefits of living here, but they don’t get to vote and sponsor their families.
Under either scenario, Maine’s DACA workers become legal, and there’s no loss to the economy.
Dreamers want a “clean” path to citizenship without any enforcement provisions. Democratic leadership and unions support them. It’s not surprising. Most illegal immigrants are Hispanic, who traditionally vote Democratic. And the AFL-CIO leadership, after decades of union membership decline, did a surprising about-face in 2000, championing the cause of amnesty for illegal immigrants, hoping to expand dues-paying membership by recruiting from undocumented workers.
The House Judiciary Committee recently passed the Legal Workforce Act, requiring all employers to vet future hires through E-Verify, the electronic system that verifies work authorization.
Although the public and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce strongly support the goals of this legislation, which would create a level playing field for all employers and essentially end the document fraud and the jobs magnet that drives illegal immigration, every Democrat voted against the bill. Dreamers and Democrats want far more than legalization. They want the doors left open.
Republicans are divided.
Some want another mass amnesty, like the Democrats, appeasing their cheap labor donors. But many are concerned that legalization for Dreamers will become a Trojan Horse for millions who were not innocent and induce more to come.
History bears them out: Congress has passed seven amnesties for 6 million since 1986, and now we have at least 11 million more. They argue that the next group of Dreamers is already on the way, and if we want parents to stop risking their children’s lives in coming here and facing this same issue in a few years, then we need to end the jobs magnet for good.
And there’s the rub. Congress doesn’t agree about priorities or even the necessity of ending illegal immigration. Ignore what they say. Watch their votes.
Polls show that Americans like immigrants, consider them hard working and good neighbors. And these numbers haven’t changed with the election of Trump. But polls also show that by large majorities Americans want immigration significantly reduced and our laws respected.
Jonette Christian of Holden is a founder of Mainers for Sensible Immigration Policy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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