By Michael R. Bloomberg
An executive’s job is to make tough decisions and convince people to follow you. That’s what CEOs are hired to do — and it’s what we elect presidents to do. By punting the legal status of young immigrants to Congress without offering his own proposal, President Trump has failed an important test of executive leadership. But his failure is Congress’s opportunity.
The administration’s threat to rescind the legal status of 800,000 individuals brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents would be a monumentally bad economic decision that — in its cruelty toward innocent people — would also be patently un-American. Business leaders I speak with from around the country, and from every major industry, understand that deporting these young people would adversely affect the labor supply as well as consumer demand. Growth would suffer, innovation would move overseas, and the future of our country would be dimmer.
There is no sound economic case to be made for deporting a young, productive workforce and surrendering the real benefits they provide our country. According to a new analysis by New American Economy, a coalition of business leaders I co-chair, the young people who qualify for the Obama-era program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, earn almost $20 billion in income annually. They pay more than $3 billion in local, state and federal taxes, and they contribute almost $2 billion to Social Security and $470 million to Medicare. Another study found that passing a DREAM Act to keep young immigrants here instead of sending them abroad would pump over $300 billion into the U.S. economy over the next two decades.
Immigrants and their children have founded more than 40 percent of our Fortune 500 companies. Think of the next Main Street entrepreneur who grows his or her company to employ many local residents. Or the next Silicon Valley entrepreneur who builds a company that benefits millions of Americans — and keeps America at the forefront of the global economy. Think too of the next award-winning teacher, or life-saving doctor.
They are called Dreamers because they are pursuing the great American dream: the chance to work hard, play by the rules, and build a better life for yourself and your children. Deporting them would deprive local communities of talented, hard-working and law-abiding young people, and deprive the country of the brains and brawn it needs to continue leading the world economy.
Our coalition of business leaders has a deep regard for the rule of law, and we understand the desire to see all immigrants held to the same standard. But children brought here illegally by their parents did nothing wrong — and in order to stay, they must pass background checks and prove they are going to school, have graduated, or have honorably served in the military.
Doing so demonstrates that they are law-abiding and productive members of their communities, and it gives them the opportunity to qualify for DACA, which grants them two things: temporary protection from deportation to a country many do not remember and whose language they may not speak, and a renewable, two-year work permit.
In the past, members of the House and Senate have introduced a variety of bipartisan bills to give these young people a more permanent place in American society. Until Tuesday, those in Congress who oppose deportation — and I believe it’s a strong majority, as it is among Americans — had the luxury of sitting back and allowing Obama’s temporary fix to remain in place. That is no longer a viable option.
The future of the American dream — for all Americans — depends on our willingness to keep it open to all young people who pursue it. And that now depends on Congress having the courage to lead where the president will not.
Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. He is the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for cities and climate change.
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