Editor’s Note: Maine State Chamber President Dana Connors recently submitted this opinion editorial below to the Lewiston Sun Journal.
As business leaders representing the most important industries in our region, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce is committed to promoting economic growth and job creation for all Americans. From manufacturing to agriculture, and from small local businesses to Fortune 500 companies, Maine’s economy relies on our diverse, talented workforce to drive the country forward. That is why the Chamber has joined a bipartisan group supporting federal legislation to create permanent protections for Dreamers. These protections would allow immigrants in our communities and across the country to continue to pursue their education, contribute to our labor force and tax base, and start new businesses that create jobs.
With the Supreme Court hearing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program case on November 12, a potentially devastating decision could be forthcoming that would prevent our immigrant neighbors from realizing their potential – as doctors, teachers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and so much more – to everyone’s detriment. There are several bipartisan proposals to protect DACA, including the American Dream and Promise Act, the Dream Act, and the SECURE Act. Americans of all kinds agree that a solution is necessary, and urgent action must be taken.
Nationwide, there are 1.25 million Dreamers – immigrants brought to the United States as children – who are eligible for the DACA program. The current administration has attempted to terminate this program, and with a legal decision imminent, these immigrants could soon face deportation often after decades in the United States. These immigrants are driving economic growth in our communities. According to New American Economy, individuals eligible for DACA together earn $23 billion in total household income each year and contribute $4 billion of that income to federal, state, and local taxes that keep our metro areas moving.
Deporting these community members – including workers and employers, consumers and homeowners – would not only be devastating to families but also to local economies. Data from the Cato Institute (www.cato.org/blog/economic-fiscal-impact-repealing-daca) estimates that deporting individuals who have DACA would cost the federal government over $60 billion, with an additional $280 billion in lost economic growth over the next decade. With national unemployment at near-record lows, this is a scenario we simply cannot afford.
As the State Chamber, we urge our Congressional members to not allow politics to stand in the way of economic growth. We are hopeful that Congress will pass a bipartisan deal to protect DACA recipients. Our industries need this – and it will also lay the groundwork for the type of broader, common-sense immigration reforms that we need to compete globally.