It is February 2019, and major corporate CEOs – who are in most cases reluctant to weigh in on controversial political issues lest they repel significant segments of their customer bases – have no hesitation advocating for the amnesty for DACA recipients, or “Dreamers.”
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, initiated by President Obama’s executive order in 2012, granted protections from deportation and work permits to illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children (including teenagers) and have been here five years. President Trump intended to rescind DACA in 2017 but delayed the decision to await a Congressional fix, which never happened, but now the status of the program remains as the efforts to phase it out are tied up in the courts.
In a letter addressed to the top leaders of both political parties in both chambers of Congress, dozens of company CEOs and business association directors urged a “permanent legislative solution to enable Dreamers who are currently living, working, and contributing to our communities to continue doing so.”
The letter was published in a full-page ad in the New York Times on February 11. Among the signatories were executives from companies including Apple, Amazon, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Verizon, and Walmart, as well as many other familiar ones. Associations included those representing the retail, fashion, travel, restaurant and manufacturing industries, as well as chambers of commerce.
“Studies by economists across the ideological spectrum have determined that if Congress fails to act, our economy could lose $350 billion in GDP, and the federal government could lose $90 billion in tax revenue,” the signatories contended. “Thus, continued delay or inaction will cause significant negative economic and social impact to businesses and hundreds of thousands of deserving young people across the country.”
Of course, when you see business leaders weighing in on controversial, divisive issues – dragging their employees, customers and shareholders along for an often-unwilling ride – they either are doing so to advance their agenda, or to express their personal political priorities.
There are probably some of both with this effort. Unfortunately their claims about economic and tax revenue impact are debatable if not dubious, while at the same time ignoring other negative consequences from current DACA policy.
The numbers they cited come from reports published by economists Ike Brannon and Logan Albright for the libertarian Cato Institute. Their “advantageous” numbers (do libertarians really think the feds need billions more in revenue?) are up from a study they conducted just two years ago, which said instant repeal of DACA would result in the loss of $215 billion to the economy and $60 billion in tax revenue. So the estimates have jumped by 50 percent-75 percent without a corresponding increase in the numbers of DACA recipients over that time, which makes you wonder whether they are just making these numbers up.
Perhaps tellingly, most of the media and Congress members who have touted Cato’s research are those on the far left. When you see the likes of MSNBC and Congressional Democrats embracing the findings from a libertarian think tank, you have a right to be suspicious.
Meanwhile there are counterfactual data and omissions by the open borders advocates of the negative consequences from DACA policies. According to a Harvard University research project, a survey of over 2,000 recipients found that:
- 73 percent of DACA recipients he surveyed live in a low-income household (defined as qualifying for free lunch in high school);
- 22 percent have earned a degree from a four-year college or university;
- 20 percent have dropped out of high school;
- 20 percent have no education beyond high school and no plans to attend college;
- 59 percent obtained a new job with a DACA work permit, but only 45 percent increased their overall earnings; and
- 36 percent have a parent who holds a bachelor’s degree.
“None of this is to suggest that these individuals should not be considered for an amnesty or legalization program, but to suggest that the arguments in favor of such a program are largely political rather than economic,” wrote Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for limited, responsible immigration policies. “Immigrants who are not highly educated and who are working in low-paying jobs are more likely to access welfare and other public assistance programs over the course of their lives.”
Without going too much deeper into the immigration debate, there are also the concerns about a DACA “amnesty” creating yet another attraction for illegal immigrants to attempt to cross our porous U.S.-Mexican border (witness the caravans). Then there are the findings by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that 8 percent of DACA recipients had previously been arrested, many for serious crimes.
And contrary to the portrayal by DACA-fix proponents – that these “Dreamers” are embedded in the fabric of American society, only 49 percent have a high school education, and only 900 of the estimated 750,000 serve in the military.
The point is not to land on one side or the other, but to point out that there are multitudes of data and facts in the policy debate, and for much of Corporate America to weigh in so strongly and continually on one side of it threatens to anger half their customer base, and threaten their mission to maximize profitability for their employees, their company’s health, and for shareholders.
Many if not most Americans elected President Trump because he promised to strengthen our border security and to limit immigration, in part to protect employment opportunities for our own citizens. Some polls have him at more than 50 percent approval now, following a tense and vigorous debate over those policies, and he still draws many thousands to his rallies.
For CEOs to disregard half the country on such a divisive issue and weigh in so strongly on one side is irresponsible stewardship of the corporations they lead.