SantaCruz: Paxton ignores immigrants’ contributions with DACA ultimatum

Short-sighted. That sums up the recent immigration-related ultimatum presented by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his counterparts of nine other states to President Donald Trump and his administration.

A state AG’s job is to protect the best interest of residents — in Paxton’s case, Texans — and not to provoke issues that potentially brings harm to the state.

In their ultimatum — a letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered late last month — Paxton et al demanded an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — a program that offers deportation protection and work permits to qualified undocumented young adults — or deal with more time in court.

That threat overlooks the benefits that Dreamers, as DACA recipients are known, bring to communities across the country, including many here in Texas.

RELATED EDITORIAL: Trump could ease anxieties, send message to Congress by shielding DACA

The DACA policy – set in 2012 by an executive order from President Barack Obama — acknowledges that including talented and ambitious immigrants to our workforce is good for our country. As such, DACA shields recipients from deportation and grants renewable, two-year work permits to an estimated 1 million people who:

• Were brought to the United States before their 16th birthday.

• Have lived in the country continuously since mid-2007.

• Are in school or have graduated.

• Have no felonies or significant misdemeanors.

Since its inception, DACA has not only assured more immigrant families stay together, it has also helped drive economic growth and strengthen job creation across the country. When Congress refused to create meaningful immigration reform, Obama proposed expanding the program.

In 2014, the Obama administration attempted to expand the DACA program to more young adults and, through the creation of another program — Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, known as DAPA — proposed to extend the protections to qualified unauthorized immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. However, the DAPA program was never implemented after Texas successfully argued in federal courts that Obama had overstepped his executive authority.

Last month, the Trump administration officially rescinded the DAPA policy but said that DACA and some expanded DACA permits would remain in effect. Some Republicans, like Paxton, weren’t happy.

RELATED EDITORIAL: Silver lining in immigration ruling

“If, by September 5, 2017, the Executive Branch agrees to rescind the June 15, 2012 DACA memorandum and not to renew or issue any new DACA or Expanded DACA permits in the future, then the plaintiffs that successfully challenged DAPA and Expanded DACA will voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit currently pending in the Southern District of Texas,” Paxton wrote. “Otherwise, the complaint in that case will be amended to challenge both the DACA program and the remaining Expanded DACA permits.”

Clearly, Paxton and friends have yet to grasp that Dreamers have made and could continue to make positive contributions in Texas and across the country.

“Their evident xenophobia is not remotely consistent with the trajectory of our nation’s history and future progress,” said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in a statement. “Their political careers and each of their states will suffer from their mean-spirited stupidity.”

Saenz is right.

Consider that ending DACA would wipe away at least $433.4 billion from the U.S. gross domestic product over the next 10 years, according to a recent economic analysis by the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan policy institute.

That’s because, as several economic-impact studies show, investments in higher education and wages rise as people with legal working status – like DACA recipients — get jobs that better match their skills and training. It’s important to note that those who choose to study do so without federal financial aid and limited — if any — state financial assistance. Now that’s drive.

As Dreamers earn more, they spend more – and that benefits everyone. As higher incomes allow for bigger purchases, local and state tax revenues increase. More for the benefit of all. Paxton’s ultimatum would mean less.

It’s fair to say those who courageously come out of the shadows to apply for DACA are driven and motivated to make positive impacts in the cities and towns where they live. Dreamers under DACA’s protection are and can be Texas’ next generation of business owners, health care providers, educators and contributors to a stronger economy.

An attorney general should see that value in that. It’s sad that Paxton can’t.

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