An act legalizing some 2.1 million undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children would give a major boost to the economy, according to a new study from the Center for American Progress and the Partnership for a New American Economy. Passing the DREAM Act would, the authors conclude, generate 1.4 million jobs and add $329 billion to the economy. It would also generate some $10.2 billion in additional state and federal tax revenue from households and businesses. Over two decades, the DREAMer population would earn 19 percent more than without passage of the act.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, first introduced in 2001, would provide a path to legal status for eligible young people. Until recently, they were treated the same as unauthorized immigrants who came to United States as adults, meaning that they were frequently deported even if they were toddlers when they arrived here and Americans in all but documentation.
Under an executive order President Obama announced in June, young immigrants who have been here for five years or more are no longer being deported. But this is only a temporary measure and, as the president has said, it is not “amnesty” or a path to citizenship as passage the DREAM Act would be. Republicans initially howled at the president’s move, but they have toned it down as election day nears, quite possibly for fear they will, as a party, lose even more of the Latino vote than they already have.
Gaining legal status alone would give DREAMers access to better jobs than those typically available to undocumented immigrants. But, in addition, the DREAM Act would have a strong economic impact because it would spur eligible immigrants to finish high school and take at least some college courses or join the military. This would give them the education and skills to earn more money.
The CAP study’s authors, Juan Carlos Guzmán and Raúl C. Jara, note:
In detailing the ways in which passage of the DREAM Act will add significant value, jobs, and tax revenue to the American economy, it is important to note that the benefits would not simply be a one-time addition but instead unfold over time, with the economic benefits growing larger as time goes on. This upward trajectory comes because eligible DREAMers will have a staggered entrance into the workforce, with many eligible youth still in elementary or secondary school at the time of passage.[…]
One important caveat is necessary: This study looks solely at the economic benefits from passing the DREAM Act, and not any costs that may be incurred. But we believe future costs from the DREAM Act will be limited.
The report includes an interactive rollover map showing differences between gains in all 50 states and a full set of the data in the report. The impact varies widely from state to state because the age and demographics of the DREAMers and foreign-born individuals in each state.
Take Colorado, for instance: 44,000 DREAMers; 22,459 new jobs; $5.5 billion added to the economy; $169 million in new tax revenue.
Compare that with Ohio: 16,500 DREAMers; 6,906 new jobs; $1.4 billion added to the economy; $41 million in new tax revenue.
While the DREAM Act obviously would have significant benefits for individuals, it works for the whole country as well. Opposition reflects the short-sighted view that encouraging these young people will steal benefits that would otherwise only be available to Americans born here. That rejection of a sensible act of straightforward justice cuts against everything we know to be true in the long immigrant history of the United States.