As the summer sun sets on the copper state, thousands of Arizona residents who arrived in this country illegally as children await their fate. Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) from Texas and those from nine other Republican-led states have challenged the Trump administration with a September 5th deadline to make a final call on the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
DACA is an American immigration policy founded by the Obama administration in June 2012. DACA allows certain illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors to gain a pathway to permanent legal status, provided they meet certain criteria. Most of these residents know America as their only home.
Opponents of DACA seem to believe that the deportation of undocumented residents nationwide will ease financial burdens at state and federal levels. When Arizona legislators passed stringent immigration laws in 2007 and 2010, many hoped illegal workers would leave the state, causing employers to raise wages and hire native and documented workers, thereby improving our economy.
However, because of the mass immigrant exodus, our state experienced a labor shortage, as native workers picked up less than 10 percent of the jobs formerly held by undocumented immigrants. Wages for Arizona farmworkers did increase by 15%, and in construction by 10%, but these increases were comparable to those in neighboring states, and did not appear to be due to the lack of undocumented workers.
The net effect on Arizona of the massive immigrant departure was a deficit of over 5.5 billion dollars. Besides, based on the nation’s 2013 GDP, the National Bureau of Economic Research predicts that if all of Arizona’s undocumented workers were deported, Arizona would lose 9.7 billion dollars.
I find it interesting that by 2010 more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies had been founded by immigrants and their children. Apple, Google, and McDonald’s, to name a few, all owe their origin to a founder who was an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. Our own president’s grandfather, Friedrich Trump, emigrated to the United States at age 16, and by age 32, he was a wealthy businessman.
Our country was founded on the land of the free by brave immigrants who followed their dreams, paving the road to a world of opportunity for themselves and others. Along the way, we’ve admittedly stumbled, at times succumbing to prejudice, bigotry, and ignorance. Sadly, our nation struggles with those issues today as much as our forefathers did 240 years ago.
The issues we face now have developed over time, as a new nation experienced her growing pains under the watchful eyes of the world. I sincerely hope the Trump administration does not try to snap its fingers and make our problems disappear overnight. The economic loss and widespread personal devastation of a rushed decision to halt the issuance of DACA work permits would impact our communities, our state, and our world.
History has clearly shown that neither prejudice, bigotry, ignorance, nor hatred has ever advanced civilization. As a nation founded by immigrants, America boasts of being a melting pot strengthened by diversity, as a rope is made secure by the individual threads which bond together to become one.
John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” Today’s dilemmas require a willingness to benefit from our past, careful consideration, and most important, an action plan which supports America’s stronghold as a defender of civil rights.
Today we hear those in Washington argue about party issues when what we truly face are complex human issues. President Trump underreacted to the brutal attack of white supremacists on peaceful protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. He again flamed racial tension recently with the pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’d been found guilty of defying a judge’s order to stop racial profiling of Latinos; and now Republican leaders have placed DACA on the chopping block.
Approximately two million people in the United States might qualify for DACA, with over 71,000 youth living in Arizona. Advocates, citizens, and immigrants in the United States worry about the looming deadline for the Trump administration’s decision. A nation is only as strong as her people. Families make up our communities, and Arizona’s families cannot, and should not, be sliced apart as though they are just a line item on a budget.
While the desert sun sets tonight, thousands of Arizona residents and their loved ones will keep their eyes on the horizon as they hope that President Trump was telling the truth when he told the Associated Press that the affected young immigrants could “rest easy.”