Immigrants Are More Than What They Bring To The Economy

To discuss Dreamers' value in relation to the labor they provide is to dehumanize them.

With the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA, approximately 800,000 young people face the risk of deportation. The choice to rescind the program and punt it off to Congress in six months has left many outraged. The outrage has given way to lots of passionate arguments about the moral implications of rescinding DACA. But it’s also led to constant, well-meaning assertions behind why rescinding DACA would be an economic calamity for America.

And that’s a line of reasoning that, quite frankly, should make anyone in support of DACA uncomfortable. 

As many people on social media including politician Kamala Harris pointed out after Tuesday’s announcement, ending DACA could result in the economy losing out on $280 billion of economic growth over the next several years, and $460 billion in economic output

DACA supporters have brought up these numbers constantly over the last 24-hours, as well as the fact that many DACA recipients are hard workers, well-educated, and have the potential to be the leaders and innovators of America in the future if given the chance. 

Barack Obama posted a response to the DACA decision to Facebook on Tuesday, stating that plans to rescind the program cast a shadow “over some of our best and brightest young people.”

These are all the common narratives that comes up when people want to defend not only DACA but immigration, and undocumented immigrants in particular. We pull out the tropes about how immigrants are hard working, how they do the jobs many native citizens won’t do, how they stimulate the economy, how they “get stuff done.”

And this is true for many immigrants. It’s worth acknowledging. But we must not fall into the trap of looking at this as a solely economic dilemma, because it isn’t. While Jeff Sessions asserted in his announcement that DACA “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens,” this decision is not really about jobs. It’s not really about economics.

This is, quite simply, a racial and ethical dilemma and we must not lose sight of that as we defend Dreamers and their families. Bring up economics if you must, but remember that those in favor of deporting nearly a million undocumented young people of color are, at their core, not motivated by money but by racism and xenophobia. We need to call that out. 

It’s unfortunate that the contributions of immigrants have to be put in economic terms just to convince some people of their value. Because some undocumented immigrants do not fit the respectable, noble, educated or economically valuable stereotype we construct during these times of crisis.

People are more than their productivity or their education. People have value because of the simple fact that they are human beings. To discuss their value in relation to the labor they provide is, by it’s very definition, to dehumanize them. This is a point that many people have made in the past, and have continued to make in the hours since the DACA announcement was made. But it’s a point that bears repeating, always.