Column: ‘Dreamers’ are critical to Michigan
President Donald Trump’s immigration policies have immediate and real impact right here in Michigan.
In fact, Michigan has been a focal point for several recent national stories, including the deportation of Iraqi Christians to almost certain persecution based on their religion and the deportation of Jorge Garcia (a 39-year-old Mexican landscaper with no criminal record who was brought to the U.S. as a 9-year-old child and has never spent a day in Mexico since his arrival).
The current Congressional debate over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA is no different. Michigan is home to 12,418 eligible DACA recipients, 92.5 percent of whom are employed (higher than national average and fourth highest among the states with significant population, over 10,000), according to research at the New American Economy.
And Michigan is home to 6,430 DACA recipients (meaning that slightly half of those eligible in Michigan applied and received DACA). The removal of these workers from Michigan’s economy would have a total economic impact of $418.6 million annually, according to research from the Center for American Progress.
The DACA program provided a significant boost to the Michigan by providing a legal pathways for Dreamers to work and start businesses. In fact, according to survey research by the University of California-San Diego, DACA recipients increased their average hourly wages by 42 percent when they could legally work in the formal economy, translating into higher tax revenue and economic growth that benefits all Americans. After receiving DACA, 63 percent of respondents reported moving to a job with better pay; 49 percent moved to a job that better matched their education and training. And DACA enabled a significant number of Dreamers, 6 percent of respondents, to start their own business. This rate of business starts is approximately twice that of the American public as a whole.
DACA also helped local economies across Michigan and the nation as Dreamers were able to purchase homes and cars. Twelve percent of respondents purchased their first home after receiving DACA, and 54 percent reported purchasing their first car, which translates into more revenue for states and localities in the form of sales and property taxes.
But DACA isn’t just a number of statistics for those of us at Global Detroit. We have had the pleasure of working with Sergio Martinez, one of Michigan 6,430 DACA recipients. By receiving DACA, Sergio, who first arrived in the U.S. at age 3, was able to land a job at Green Dot Stables, a popular local restaurant in Corktown. He quickly rose to become a manager at the restaurant and saved his wages to buy a new home.
With Global Detroit’s support, Sergio identified a vacant, tax-foreclosed home in Southwest Detroit that he was able to purchase through the Wayne County tax auction. He fixed up the property, has started a block club to improve the neighborhood around his new home, and is working to help renovate other vacant homes on his block. Sergio has dreams of owning his own cafe and graduated from ProsperUS Detroit’s rigorous four-month business planning course. He is working with a relative to purchase and rehab a home two doors down that he hopes will house his cafe by the end of 2018. Sergio’s story represents the kind of success that immigrants — the most significant growing part of Detroit’s and the Metro Detroit’s population — can represent.
Immigrants are “job makers, not job takers,” as Gov. Rick Snyder is fond of saying. Be it high-skilled STEM workers, entrepreneurs, high-tech entrepreneurs who have launched 25 percent of our high-tech firms, young workers, or new homeowners, like Sergio — a strong, open, inclusive, and welcoming federal immigration system that offers freedom, opportunity, and security to immigrants will help Michigan build a more prosperous future.
Steve Tobocman is executive director of Global Detroit.