According to Mike Allen of Axios, the Trump Administration is at risk of burning more bridges with the business community if he follows through with his campaign promise to to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Allen claimed a Silicon Valley executive told him:
“There’s no issue that’s more gut-wrenching for us. These are people who came out of the shadows, got jobs and mortgages — we see this as betraying fellow Americans. … This is consuming a ton of time at every major company.”
DACA, which the Obama Administration launched in 2012 after legislation (often referred to as the “DREAM Act”) failed in Congress, permits qualified illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors to apply for a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation as well as a work permit. The logic as follows was that these children who crossed borders or arrived at airports, only to never return to their “home countries,” had no say in their parents’ decision to move – and deportation would be unfair as the U.S. is the only country they have ever known. Since this self-funded program began, applicants have to had to prove how long they have lived in the U.S., document examples of their moral character and are required to finish high school or be enrolled in an education program and then can eventually gain a work permit.
President Trump has wavered on DACA since he was inaugurated in January. He promised to terminate the program once he took office, but shortly after assuming the presidency, he explained during an interview with ABC’s David Muir, “We’re looking at this, the whole immigration situation, we’re looking at it with great heart.”
Meanwhile, the Trump White House has decided not to defend DACA in court as it has faced litigation since President Obama signed an executive order that started the program five years ago. But Trump’s decision to dodge the issue is untenable now that ten state attorneys generals have filed their own lawsuit with the allegation that DACA is unconstitutional. Furthermore, as his poll numbers have declined, the president has to find a way to shore up support from his base.
The fact that almost 800,000 people could be affected by this sudden change in their legal status – not to mention the millions of family members and friends who could be devastated by the specter of accelerated deportations have worried many business leaders. The optics of families torn apart, alongside the images of Hurricane Harvey (during which public officials have had to publicly announce that immigration checks will not occur at shelters), would be another blow to the White House, which has lurched from crisis to crisis on a weekly basis.
The rollback of DACA could be that proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back for many business leaders. Many companies have already been frustrated by the travel ban, the exit from the Paris Accords and finally, the botched (or nefarious) response to the violence in Charlottesville. The ethics and morals behind these policies surely have driven some executives to take a stand, with Campbell Soup Company as one example of a company that cut ties to the administration out of principle.
But looking through a business lens, at a fundamental level, companies want certainty. Boasting from the White House about stock market gains is not enough, as history has shown us that markets consistently ride a boom and bust cycle. Enacting confusing immigration policies, backing away from a global climate change commitment and suddenly threatening the work status of approximately 700,000 people makes the business climate more unsteady.
Ending DACA would put 700,000 jobs at risk, not because these people would be deported immediately, but because they would no longer be able to work legally. And the loss of those jobs would mean mortgages and car payments would not be paid, while fewer goods and services would be purchased – creating a ripple effect as 30,000 jobs a month are lost, along with the economic gains that have come with them. And once again, the private sector will have to take the lead on immigration reform – just as it has with race relations and climate change.
Image credit: Todd Dwyer/Flickr