Originally printed in the Greensboro News & Record
It has been disheartening to hear of recent reports of some individuals who participate in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — or “Dreamers” — being swept up in a broad net of anti-immigration sentiment stirring in our country. For moral and economic reasons, we must find a way to keep these bright and hardworking students and workers here in the U.S.
Thankfully, both President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have indicated a desire to do just that. DACA was first put into place in 2012 by President Obama as an executive order to provide temporary relief from deportation for undocumented immigrants who, through no fault of their own, came to the United States as children. It also allowed them to work and study openly for the first time.
It is essential to our national and state economies that the nearly 1 million Dreamers in the United States are allowed to stay in this country — in most cases, the only country they have ever known — and continue to contribute to growth, job creation and expansion of the American Dream. Dreamers have built their lives in the U.S., and 6 percent have also created businesses that employ native-born citizens. Almost 90 percent of Dreamers are employed. By one estimation, repeal of DACA would cost the United States more than $400 billion over the next decade.
North Carolina would not be isolated from these impacts. We are home to more than three-quarters-of-a-million immigrants of all kinds in our state — 8 percent of our population — and North Carolina has a higher immigration rate than the United States as a whole.
In North Carolina, about 50,000 of these immigrants are self-employed, and immigrant-owned businesses generated more than $972 million in business income in 2014. More than 120,000 North Carolinians are employed by an immigrant. According to a 2014 UNC-Chapel Hill study, immigrants contribute more than $27,000 annually per capita in North Carolina.
The economic consequences of repealing DACA and forcibly removing hundreds of thousands of young people would be dire. Businesses will be forced to close, putting people out of work. The number of consumers in our state would take a major hit, greatly impacting sectors such as retail. Significant numbers of workers would not be able to show up to work anymore, generating nothing more than chaos for many businesses.
Instead of removing these hardworking young people, the president and his administration should focus on ways to strengthen the program so that Dreamers can continue to contribute to the state’s economy until Congress finally enacts a comprehensive immigration reform package. President Trump can do so — as can members of the North Carolina congressional delegation — by supporting two pieces of legislation currently proposed in Congress: the bipartisan Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream of Growing Our Economy (BRIDGE) Act and the Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act, which would effectively extend the life of DACA.
If President Trump does not take such a path, there will be both immediate and long-term consequences for our economy, and hence for all of us — not just immigrants.
Pricey Harrison is a state representative for North Carolina’s 57th District and a retired attorney from Greensboro.