As a man fond of deals, President-elect Donald Trump can appreciate that he controls the fate of one of the largest political deals in recent history. Once he assumes office on Jan. 20, he’s expected to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, issued by President Obama in June 2012.
That executive action directed the Department of Homeland Security to defer deporting illegal immigrants under 30 who came to the U.S. before the age of 16, had not been convicted of a crime and were enrolled in school or the military.
If he wants to be the ultimate deal-maker, Trump should keep the action in place and signal to investors that the American economy is ready for a new boom.
Why would someone seen as an immigration hard-liner ever consider keeping this action in place?
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As an employer of tens of thousands of people, Trump understands the economics of mass deportation and the value of the people who’ve been in the country as illegal immigrants.
“They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen,” he told Time magazine.
A study conducted this year by the American Action Forum, a center-right policy group, estimates that deporting 11 million illegal immigrants would cost between $400 billion and $600 billion.
Usurping 6.8 million illegal immigrant workers from the American economy would cause immediate uncertainty and shortage of labor for potentially millions of small businesses. Firms will be forced to raise prices or allocate more resources to refilling their pool of workers.
Repealing the action would also deprive public universities of millions of dollars in tuition paid by the nearly 50 percent of deferred action beneficiaries enrolled in college. Trump knows that’s a bad deal for the government, the economy, and future employers.
As a young journalist at the Gaston Gazette newspaper in Gastonia in 2012, I was witness to the effect of the illegal immigrant situation on the local sheriff’s office. Federal rules required an extensive background and paper check on each immigrant detained. Local communities became bastions of mistrust and underreported crime. Local Hispanic populations avoided any and all interactions with police.
The sheriff’s deputies I spoke to understood the need to uphold federal immigration law but were wary about the erosion of goodwill between law enforcement and the tens of thousands of immigrant families who may need to call on their services.
This caused a rift still present there today, even with a limited number of immigrants. Imagine the same situation emerging in places like Los Angeles, Chicago or Miami.
Clearly something needs to be done for immigration reform. The system hasn’t worked and is rife with complex rules, regulations and plenty of work for immigration attorneys.
By keeping deferred action for the millions of illegal immigrants who are now contributing to American society, Trump has the ability to make one of the best deals of his early presidency, one that could cement his legacy far beyond his tenure.
Yaël Ossowski, a Charlotte native, is a Young Voices Advocate and senior development officer at Students For Liberty.