Immigration reform groups are working to keep the 13,600 Utahns currently eligible for DACA in the United States. Representatives from the groups said children who immigrated to the U.S. with their parents have a positive impact on Utah’s economy.
In 2012 Barack Obama issued an executive order called the Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. It allows certain immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.
“I think sometimes it’s easy for people to think of all immigrants falling into a sort of generalized stereotype,” said Jason Mathis, the Executive Vice President of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and member of New American Economy, which is a bipartisan organization that supports immigration reform. “Maybe someone who came across the border from Mexico, maybe someone who works in a manual labor job.”
Mathis said many DACA eligible immigrants who grow up in the U.S. are not a stereotype, but work in a variety of jobs and often graduate from college to contribute to the economy.
According to NAE, 91.4 percent of the Utah DACA-eligible population who are at least 16 years old are employed and earn more than $176 million in total income annually. That population contributes more than $22 million in total taxes annually, $13 million of which goes to state and local tax revenue.
“Some path to legalization really seems to make a lot of sense,” Mathis said. “Not just for them, thinking of it purely from an economic standpoint, from a selfish standpoint. It really makes a lot of sense for our economy and particularly for our state.”
Many people are worried that allowing undocumented immigrants to work in the United States would allow some businesses to take advantage of workers and their willingness to work for low wages. Mathis blames both political parties for delaying immigration reform that would allow an easier path to citizenship or more rights and protection for workers.
“It’s easy for me to talk about it from an economic perspective, because that’s my job, that’s what I understand,” Mathis said. “Anybody who has concerns about this, go get to know some immigrants then reassess your perspective and see if you still feel the same way.”
When the Justice Department announced plans to end DACA, it also gave Congress a six-month window to possibly save the policy.