President Obama will announce a new immigration policy today that will allow some undocumented youths to avoid deportation and receive work permits to remain in the United States. Students in the U.S. who are in deportation proceedings or those who would have qualified for the DREAM Act and have yet to come forward to Department of Homeland Security officials will not be deported and will be allowed to work in the United States.
Though exact details of the plan are still unclear, it could benefit as many as one million undocumented students living in the country, and it will almost certainly have tangible benefits for the long-term health of the American economy.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the DREAM Act — which Republicans blocked in 2010 — would increase federal revenues by $1.7 billion over the next 10 years, reducing federal deficits by $2.2 billion over that time. DREAM-eligible students would generate between $1.4 and $3.6 trillion in taxable income over the course of their working lives, according to a study by UCLA’s North American Integration and Development Center.
DREAM-eligible youth could also help fill the 16 million shortfall of college-educated workers that is expected to hit the U.S. by 2025, and with 31.5 percent of science and engineering graduates coming from Latino backgrounds, Obama’s decision could add 252,000 new scientists, engineers, and technical workers to the nation’s dwindling supply in those fields.
The decision will help raise wages for American workers too. “As long as a cheap, compliant pool of undocumented labor is available, employers have every reason to take advantage of the situation, keeping wages as low as possible,” Cristina Jimenez wrote in the American Prospect in 2010. “Only when undocumented immigrants have the ability to exercise complete workplace rights will they help exert upward pressure on wages and labor standards that will benefit other workers.”
These benefits are obvious even to leading Republicans. “The economy will be better when that [undocumented] kid is able to fully realize his potential and break the pattern of his parent’s illegal activity,” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said in 2010. Obama’s decision isn’t just good because it protects young adults who have spent most of their lives establishing homes in the United States, it’s good because it will help our struggling economy too.