Let me get right to the point: Helping young aspiring citizens remain in America is good for America. Removing the immediate threat of deportation for young people who were brought here as children will have remarkable economic benefits.
The Obama administration's policy of "deferred action," which the president announced June 15, will allow nearly one million young immigrants to remain in the country with their families and make them eligible to apply for work authorization without fear. These American-raised, hardworking youth yearn for a chance to use their diplomas and degrees.
As the Center for American Progress points out, we can expect several economic benefits as a result of the policy the president announced:
- It will create thousands of new taxpayers who will bolster our economy. More taxpayers means more tax revenue, reducing our country's budget deficit.
- New Americans complement the existing labor force, adding tens of billions of dollars to our economy each year.
- Work authorization helps prevent employee exploitation. This increases wages for native-born workers, and more money to spend means more jobs and a better economy.
- Deferred action will encourage our young aspiring citizens to continue pursuing their educations, meeting the demands of our labor market, and working side by side with Americans to produce goods and create jobs.
Those of us in the labor market who were born here should not feel threatened. We need skilled workers in all parts of our economy, from the farm to the Fortune 500. With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day for the next 17 years, we need a new generation of hard workers -- no matter where they were born.
And, as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress on July 19, deferred action is financially self-sustaining.
Secretary Napolitano was clear about this when she told Congress that the cost "is not anticipated to come out of taxpayer funds." Yes, the process could cost hundreds of millions of dollars -- but the application fees are expected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars, directly offsetting any costs.
This is not a novel idea. It's exactly how existing programs within our country's citizenship and immigration office work. Unlike most federal agencies, our immigration agency, USCIS, is a self-funded, fee-based organization. For example, say you came here legally and want to apply for a green card. It will set you back $1,070 -- $985 for the application itself and an additional $85 "biometric fee" (for a fingerprint check).
Five years later, when you're eligible to become a citizen, you'll pay another $680 just to apply -- including another $85 for your prints.
So our concern should not be that American taxpayers will have to pay for this endeavor -- because we won't.
(Detention and deportation costs are another story -- and another good reason to grant relief to upstanding young people who want to go to work or school and not to a detention facility where we foot the bill.)
In fact, our concern should be for a clear-cut, accessible process, one that helps these new Americans integrate and contribute as quickly as possible. The Department of Homeland Security must provide a clear roadmap for them -- not an obstacle course.
We've seen enough barriers from Congress. The administration's temporary action should inspire a bipartisan effort to create a permanent immigration process that adheres to our values of equality and hard work.
Our economy deserves nothing less.
Ali Noorani is the Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.