If folks in Washington DC truly wants to help the national economy rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s elected leaders should prioritize advancing the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. This bipartisan legislation would allow a small group of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to work, go to school, and serve in the military while pursuing U.S. citizenship. Polling data consistently shows that voters from both parties strongly agree that these young people offer invaluable contributions to our country and should have a legal avenue to continue living here. Former President Ronald Reagan said it best when he observed that “our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands.”
Major business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Retail Federation all support the DREAM Act for its potential to boost the overall U.S. economy. Dreamers are economic multipliers: they work, pay taxes, spend as consumers, and create jobs, just like any other American. If the U.S. were to lose all its Dreamers tomorrow, up to $460 billion in gross domestic product would be lost with them. America cannot afford such an enormous loss on top of the $3.2 – $4.8 trillion the pandemic is projected to cost our economy in GDP over the next two years. By contrast, the DREAM Act would actually increase U.S. GDP by $1 trillion over the next ten years.
Despite Dreamers paying federal, state and local taxes, they are unable to access many of the very government services they contribute to. We need their contributions to our tax base, which has dwindled thanks to the economic strains of the pandemic. Across the country, Dreamers pay an estimated $5.6 billion in federal taxes and another $3.1 billion in state and local taxes every year. If unable to tax Dreamers’ paychecks, the federal government would lose $90 billion in tax revenue over the next decade. Dreamers similarly pay into our Medicare and Social Security systems. Without Dreamers, Medicare and Social Security will experience a $24.6 billion shortfall over the next ten years, right when the surge of Baby Boomer retirements is expected to squeeze those systems more than ever before.
The U.S. business community, values Dreamers as leaders and innovators. Dreamers are assets to Alaska, and to U.S. companies large and small; more than 72 percent of the top 25 companies on the Fortune 500 list employ Dreamers, including household names like IBM, Walmart, and Apple. Dreamers also start small businesses and invest in their communities by creating new jobs. Approximately six percent of recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a Department of Homeland Security program that offers select Dreamers renewable two-year permits to stay in the U.S., have already founded small businesses that employ U.S. citizens.
The DREAM Act would also increase the purchasing power of Dreamers as consumers. Dreamers want to be able to go to school and get good jobs that allow them to pursue the American Dream, which includes a car, a home, and opportunities to take advantage of the outdoors. The DREAM Act would grant them the educational and work permits necessary to participate in the formal economy, often in high-skilled jobs, and bring home more money to provide for their families.
The DREAM Act has the unique potential to help expedite Alaska’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.