There’s an extraordinary amount of Political Class breast-beating about DACA recipients—who are, after all, just a subset of illegal aliens who came to the U.S. between mid 2007 and mid 2012, and who are now mostly adults ranging up to age 36.
Thus Oklahoma’s useless GOP Senator James Lankford proclaimed piously when rumors began that the Trump Administration would shortly rescind the program “we as Americans do not hold children legally accountable for their parents’ actions”. Subsequently, Lanford introduced his own (larger) Amnesty proposal along with the equally appalling Senators Tillis and Hatch.
Lankford of course misses the point. America is not punishing these young adults who came here illegally as children: it is merely not rewarding them.
The children of burglars are not allowed to keep the property their parents stole.
How much have DACA recipients stolen? Look at one government program from which the DACA population benefitted because of the U.S Supreme Court’s disastrous (and eminently reversible)1982 Plyler v Doe decision: free public education.
The DACA population numbers about 790,000. This represents about 5% of total U.S High School enrollment. The non-DACA contingent—about 14.4 million High Schoolers—were and remain de facto victims of the program. The resources and time devoted to their education have been diminished by the needs of catering to program enrollees.
American parents are also victims: they subsidize DACA student via higher school property taxes.
The 2017 National DACA Study [PDF] finds that the average age of the DACAs is 25.2 years, their avg. age at arrival is 6.5 years. Thus, as of August 2017, the average time a DACA has been in the U.S. is 18.7 years (25.2 less 6.5.)
I estimate their average time in K-12 to be 11.5 years, on the assumption they were enrolled upon arrival at age 6.5, and graduated HS at age 18. Accordingly:
K-12 Education spending: $111.6 billion over 11.5 years (calculated by multiplying the $12,300 per student K-12 annual cost figure times 790,000 DACAs, times 11.5, the number of years the average DACA was enrolled in K-12.
Obviously, with the DACA population averaging 25.2 years old, some are now in college. I make no attempt to estimate the college tuition subsidy, especially considering in-state tuition enacted by some states, which could easily exceed K-12 costs on an annual basis. So my education cost estimate is conservative.
State and Local Spending (the non-K-12 part): $111.9 billion over 18.7 years. This calculated by multiplying the DACA share of the total US population (0.24%—or 790,000 as a percent of 325.4 million) times $2.5 trillion—annual state and local spending, excluding K-12, over the average time a DACA has been in the U.S.—18.7 years (25.2 less 6.5.).
This $111.9 billion total includes state and local government spending on welfare, health, hospitals, highways, fire and police departments, jails, housing, water supply, transit, debt service, and other state and local government non-education spending.
Note that I make no attempt at apportion the ongoing cost of keeping DACA recipients in the country, assuming their Amnesty is made permanent.
Federal spending: $165.7 billion over 18.7 years. (Calculated by multiplying the DACA share of US population (0.24%) times total Federal Spending - $3.7 trillion in FY2017)
Note again that I make no attempt at apportion the ongoing cost of keeping DACA recipients in the country, assuming their Amnesty is made permanent.
Income lost annually by non-DACA workers (immigrant and native) who compete with DACAs in the workplace: $9.9 billion per year
DACA enrollees are granted work permits and shielded from deportation.
Which means that, as things stand now, they will compete with Americans for jobs. This will increase economic output somewhat, but the great bulk of this will increase be captured by the DACA recipients themselves, in the form of wages. And the employment and wages of native-born American and non-DACA immigrant workers will decline because of competitive pressure.
How to estimate the size of the DACA-related wage decline? Following George Borjas, every 10% increase in the immigrant share of the workforce lowers wages of competitors by about 3.5%. [Immigration and the American Worker, By George Borjas, CIS, April 9, 2013 (PDF)]Let's assume the DREAmers’ closest competitors are immigrants already working here, specifically immigrants with only HS degrees, or HS and some college. There were 7,366,000 of them in 2016, making an average $36,400 a year—according to BLS. So those 790,000 DACAs will expand the relevant immigrant workforce by 10.7%, triggering a 3.7% reduction in wages. Over a 40-year working lifetime, DACAs will reduce income of non-DACA workers by about $396.6 billion.
Note that these are gross, not net, costs. Of course DACA recipients will pay some taxes, and their depression of American wages will benefit American owners of capital (hence the Chamber of Commerce’s enthusiasm) and, possibly, consumers. But these beneficiaries will not necessarily be the same as those disadvantaged. The fundamental point remains: DACA recipients are stealing from Americans—totaling at least as much as $750 billion over their working lives.
How many high-schoolers have complained about being short-changed by a system rigged in favor of their DACA contemporaries? How many of their parents have you seen interviewed, complaining about the higher tax burden imposed by the program?
There are far more DACA victims than beneficiaries, but all are faceless in the eyes of the Main Stream Media. The vast bulk of MSM coverage has focused on DACA beneficiaries—an endless stream of interviews with ostensibly likable, serious young people brought here by their illegal alien parents.
George Bernard Shaw is alleged to have said “It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.” He was referring to casualty lists during World War I.
Obviously, we are still not there yet.
Edwin S. Rubenstein (email him) is President of ESR Research Economic Consultants.