Imagine being at your desk, contemplating your business and professional goals for the upcoming year and suddenly, with no warning, you are told they are never going to happen because the current President does not consider you valuable enough as a contributor to the economy. This was the sentiment and reality for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers whose aspirations were held hostage by politics in 2017 when the Trump administration announced its plans to end the DACA program.
On Monday, the hopes and economic opportunities of countless Dreamers were restored with a recent court order to reinstate the program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
This program helps shield immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors, many currently in their mid-20s to late 30s, from deportation. For the first time in three years, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is now accepting new applications, which grants applicants the ability to secure a driver’s license, apply for scholarships, get a job, and even open their businesses.
Starting Monday, the Department of Homeland Security said it would grant approved applicants work permits and deportation deferrals that last for two years and allow DACA holders to request permission to travel abroad under certain circumstances.
“I am excited and very happy,” says Reyna Montoya, a nonprofit leader, educator, social entrepreneur and DACA recipient in Arizona. Montoya was named one of the Forbes 30 under 30 in 2018 for her work with Aliento, an organization she founded to help undocumented youth and children of immigrant parents through art, leadership development, organizing and education. “My students and I expressed tears of joy because they can finally go to college and get a job,” says Montoya when asked how she feels about the program being reinstated. As the CEO of her own nonprofit organization, she expressed that now she can go after much-needed grants because her legal status is no longer a barrier.
Ezequiel Hernandez, a leading immigration attorney who works closely with DACA applicants, shares a positive outlook for the economic contributions of young Dreamers. “I have clients who are excited at the prospects of applying for licenses that allow them to expand their businesses,” says Hernandez about the new economic opportunities that are unfolding as a result of this program. Hernandez also shares how the digital economy will be impacted. “My younger clients will be in a great position to engage in roles where digital literacy will help advance the American economy,” he adds.
According to a 2018 report on the economic impact of the DACA program, there are about 800,000 Dreamers who are currently protected from deportation by the program. Here are a few highlights from the report:
- Around 81% were born in Mexico and the remainder of the recipients are from more than 190 countries around the world.
- The DACA program has saved the federal government $60 billion in deportation expenses and could boost economic growth by $280 billion.
- Now that the life of the program has been extended, this could now increase economic output in the United States by more than $460 billion over a decade.
- Contributions to critical public programs like Social Security and Medicaid will likely increase significantly.
The reinstated program now provides a path to economic success for many Dreamer Entrepreneurs in the United States such as access to capital and credit, educational advancement, qualifying for business licenses such as contractors permits, nonprofit grants, and expanded workforce opportunities.
But will the economic potential of immigrants in the United States stop with young dreamers? Hernandez says the true impact and benefits to our American society as a whole are yet to be seen as the incoming Biden-Harris administration plans fully support DACA. “This great opportunity for Dreamers now presents another opportunity to address their parents,” adds Hernandez as he looks toward the prospects of a new administration expanding relief for more hard-working, low-risk immigrants of older generations in the United States.
EDGAR RAFAEL OLIVO is a bilingual business educator, economic advisor and contributor for several media outlets. He’s a nonprofit executive who is passionate about education. He is certified in finance and data analytics and holds a business degree from Arizona State University.
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