The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which provides work authorization and deportation protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants in our country, is facing its largest challenge to date, and our economy has far too much to lose if action is not taken quickly.
I know firsthand just how valuable immigrants are to our economy. Through my work with migrant families in northwest Iowa, I have spent years helping other immigrants achieve the American Dream like I have. Their ability to pursue that dream and improve our nation in the process is something we must work to protect, and all Iowans need to recognize the potential consequences of inaction.
I came to America from El Salvador in 1992, and I experienced my fair share of hurdles to reach the success I have achieved today. That is why I have dedicated my career to helping immigrants coming to Iowa get the resources they need to create prosperous lives here that will, in turn, create prosperity for us all. Unfortunately, the task of integrating immigrants into our communities has only been made more difficult by recent developments, as the uncertainty and instability that they already faced have significantly increased and our outdated immigration system does not do much to help them.
Particularly for those who rely on the DACA program, the stakes just got even higher. In early October, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled DACA is unlawful. While its beneficiaries are allowed to continue living and working here for now, the program must now go back to a lower court for yet another decision, ensuring that the lives of DACA recipients — our friends, neighbors, and coworkers — remain in limbo for the foreseeable future. The damage of this decision will be felt by everyone, in Iowa and beyond. Our culture, our communities, and most importantly, our economy are at risk if nothing is done to protect Dreamers.
There are over 2,000 DACA recipients living and working in our state, and filling essential labor gaps that are crucial in combatting our already existing workforce shortages. They could be the doctors looking after your health, the nurses caring for your elderly grandparents, or the teachers educating your children. Nationwide, estimates reveal that the end of DACA would mean 1,000 job losses each business day for two years. This is last thing we need right now.
Further, the broader economic impact of losing America’s DACA recipients cannot be understated. The end of the DACA program is estimated to result in a $280 billion loss to our country’s economic growth and an end to over 46,000 DACA-owned businesses. Additionally, DACA recipients contribute heavily to our economy through taxes and spending power – in Iowa alone that equals over $82 million going into our economy annually from the Dreamer population.
Congressional action on this issue is long overdue, and our representatives in Washington need to create legislative protections and a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients today. Senators Grassley and Ernst, I urge you to work with your colleagues in Congress to get this done soon. Protecting DACA recipients is crucial to ensure we don’t self-sabotage our already struggling economy. An uncertain future for DACA is an uncertain future for all of us, so secure their futures today.
Emilia Marroquín works for the Iowa Migrant Education Program to help migrants moving to Storm Lake access community resources and services. She is also a member of the Storm Lake Community School District Board of Education, a 2022 inductee into the Iowa Latino Hall of Fame, and volunteers with community organizations.
I have no problem w creating a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients after we have secured our southern border. Without a secure border we do not have a country.