Arizona cities would reap most benefits from Dream Act

Phoenix and Mesa rank among the top cities in America that would benefit from passage of the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, according to a new report from the public policy research organization, the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington D.C.

The oft-revised and resurrected Dream Act – first introduced in Congress nearly two decades ago but never passed – offers a path to citizenship for 50,000 Dreamers and recipients of two other temporary status programs in Maricopa County, according to the CAP report.

Both houses reintroduced the legislation in March. The Dream Act – H.R.6. – offers steps to citizenship for immigrants brought here as minors without documentation and others here on temporary status.

Passage of the bill not only would offer a better chance for them to attain education and careers, but would fill government coffers, too, the report states.

“The proposed bill would bring stability to these eligible immigrants, as well as their families. Should these individuals be forced to leave the U.S., cities and counties would experience an economic hit from the disappearance of their tax contributions, spending power, and mortgage payments,” the report says.  

Of current households in Maricopa County that would be eligible, they contribute nearly $235 million in federal taxes and $143 million in state and local taxes each year, the center said. Fifty-eight percent of those taxes come from eligible households in Phoenix, according to the CAP report.

Under H.R. 6, Dreamers, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and others in the U.S. under temporary status in the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs, would be eligible for permanent or long term legal status.

Phoenix No. 4 for most residents eligible for citizenship

To determine which communities would most benefit from the Dream Act, CAP analyzed data from 25 cities and counties to find those with the largest numbers of eligible immigrants.

Phoenix came up fourth behind Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Mesa ranked 25th.

In Phoenix, more than 31,000 residents and an additional 74,000 family members fall into the group who would be impacted by the bill. Mesa has 4,800 eligible residents and 12,400 family members.

The analysis also looked at top counties affected. Maricopa County ranked seventh with 48,700 eligible residents. Their average age was 7 when they came to the U.S.   

Deporting millions would hurt American economy

To determine economic benefits, CAP analyzed data from the Congressional Research Service, American Community Survey, Congressional Budget Office, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and other public agencies.

Among the findings:

DACA recipients, who are under temporary legal status, make significant contributions to the economy, including earning higher wages. DACA recipients are buying cars, purchasing their first homes and creating new businesses.

TPS and DED recipients are also major contributors to the economy. TPS offers a temporary legal status for those unable to return to their country due to armed conflict, natural disaster, or other extraordinary reasons. DED allows people from certain countries in similar situations to live and work in the U.S. for a temporary period of time.

TPS recipients have a labor participation rate of 87 percent. The largest occupation groups for these workers are building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations, construction and child care, personal care, and home health aides.

More than 246,000 TPS holders in the U.S. hold more than $10.1 billion in spending power. They contribute $2.3 billion in federal taxes and $1.3 billion in state and local taxes annually. About one-third of households with a TPS beneficiary have a mortgage.

More than 2.5 million immigrants would benefit from the Dream Act. If the White House administration follows through with attempts to eliminate the DACA program and deport Dreamers, America’s economy and millions of lives would suffer, the report states.

“Many of these immigrants have lived a large proportion of their lives in the United States under some sort of protected status before the Trump administration took office,” the report states. “Dreamers, for example, about one-third of whom remain protected under the DACA program, came to the United States when they were 8 years old, on average, while those eligible for TPS and DED have, on average, lived in the United States since 1997.”

Hundreds of elected leaders support immigrants

More than 175 elected leaders in cities and counties are lobbying Congress to support these immigrant residents and employees through the Cities for Action coalition.

Most of Arizona’s congressional delegation have stated publicly that they favor some form of protection for Dreamers. But division along party lines continue to thwart chances for passage of the Dream Act.

Among the co-sponsors of the Dream Act is Arizona Rep. Greg Stanton, who long advocated for Dreamers and immigrant workers as the former mayor of Phoenix.

They are valuable assets that bolster Arizona’s economy and industry, he said when the bill was introduced in March.   

“Hundreds of thousands of hard working young people stand to benefit from this important bill,” Stanton said. “When our Dreamers succeed, our communities will be stronger. We’ve been fighting for this for many years. Today is a good day for all of us.”

To qualify under proposed Dream Act

The Dream and Promise Act contains a number of conditions that applicants must meet including:

  • Have been continuously in the U.S. for four years preceding the date of the legislation’s enactment
  • Seventeen years old or younger on the initial date of entry into the U.S.
  • Graduated from high school or obtained a GED or equivalent credential, or currently in pursuit of a GED
  • A clean criminal record
  • Pass a security and law enforcement background check

Victoria Harker

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