Roughly Speaking Dan Rodricks: Commentary and conversation on life in Baltimore, Maryland and the USA

Dan Rodricks: Trump's Dreamers decision is all about racism, not business

Not only is Donald J. Trump a racist, he’s dumb. And one of the dumbest decisions of his first year in office was rescinding the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Trump might be a businessman, but ending DACA and sending it to Congress for resolution made no business sense. That he did it anyway, over compelling evidence that keeping the program in place would be good for the nation’s economy, underscores Trump’s racism, his aversion to facts and his obsession with erasing the legacy of his predecessor.

President Barack Obama signed the executive order that protected from deportation some 800,000 young people — the Dreamers, the sons and daughters of undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them into the country illegally before 2007. The majority of them came from Mexico, but Dreamers also came from Central and South America and parts of Asia and Europe.

We are very familiar with Dreamers in Maryland, of course. There are about 9,000 of them in the state. In 2012, voters approved a law that allows Dreamers, graduates of Maryland high schools, to get the in-state tuition discount at public colleges.

Last September, the Trump administration announced that DACA would come to an end. Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed that Obama’s move had been unconstitutional and that DACA had “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans.”

While he might have had a point about Obama’s executive authority, Sessions’ assertions about Dreamers taking jobs away from “hundreds of thousands of Americans” amounted to groundless red meat for Trump’s anti-immigrant base. Rescinding DACA and failing to get a resolution in Congress by March 5 (a deadline set by Trump) will be costly to the economy — and, ironically, in a way that directly contradicts Trump’s publicly stated preferences for immigration.

When he uttered his vile comments about Haiti and countries in Africa, Trump, in the kindest interpretation, was stating a preference for a merit-based immigration system, not one based on humanitarian concerns — relieving oppression, providing refuge from disaster or war, or offering opportunities to the world’s poor.

Responding to questions about Trump’s foul characterizations of developing countries with predominantly black populations, the White House skipped around the “shithole” and said Trump was “fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.”

If Trump wants skilled, educated, English-speaking immigrants, why did he rescind DACA? If he wants educated and skilled workers to make America great again, why would he want to deport thousands of Dreamers?

Could it have something to do with their skin tones?

The Center for American Progress last summer conducted a survey of more than 3,000 Dreamers in 46 states. The results showed this: More than 90 percent of the young men and women were employed; a third of Dreamers over 25 had bachelor’s degrees, and 8 percent of that group had started their own businesses. About 45 percent of the Dreamers were attending school at some level, with 75 percent of that group pursuing a bachelor’s degree. More than half of those in the survey reported moving to better jobs and better pay in the five years after DACA protections went into effect.

“These workers have high levels of human capital, they speak English, and their wages and productivity increased as a consequence of DACA,” writes Giovanni Peri, an economist who studies immigration at the University of California, Davis. “They are and will be doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists, accountants, teachers, cooks, biologists and secretaries, among other occupations.”

In a paper on DACA last year, Peri pointed out that while Dreamers take jobs in the Unites States, they also create jobs for others. Their contributions to the nation’s productivity (and Social Security system) will be vital with some 4 million baby boomers retiring each year. Other economists have pointed this out — that welcoming immigrants willing to work is central to economic growth.

There is little to support the argument that by deporting Dreamers, the nation will open up skilled jobs for unemployed Americans to take.

“There are more job openings than U.S.-born workers are able to fill — especially when it comes to high-skilled jobs,” Peri noted. “DACA recipients have, and will have, skills that are not easy to replace.”

Trump’s muddled thinking in all this — rescinding DACA while demanding a merit-based immigration system — is not lost on Peri.

“The ultimate contradiction,” he writes, “is that the Trump administration’s recent proposal for reforming the legal immigration system is built around merit and economic contribution, explicitly selecting people with skills that are in demand by U.S. employers and who speak English fluently. The beneficiaries of DACA are a perfect example of such immigrants: They are educated, working for U.S. employers, speaking perfect English, and they are young.”

But, alas, not from Norway.

drodricks@baltsun.com

twitter.com/DanRodricks

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
59°