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Kentucky Advocate Says DREAM Act Would Boost Local, State Economy

DACA_protest_Columbus_Circle_(90008)
Creative Commons
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March and rally/protest in response to the rescission of Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in New York City on September 9, 2017. The march began in Columbus Circle by the Trump International Hotel and Tower, went up Central Park West and turned into Central Park.

Kentucky’s 6,000 Dreamers — people eligible for the now-rescinded Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program — contribute $8 million in local and state taxes annually, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute. That includes sales, property and income taxes.

Anna Baumann, senior policy analyst at the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said lawmakers should implement a permanent replacement program.

“If Congress were to pass the DREAM Act, and those young people were able to get the work authorization to invest in their education and be on a pathway to legal permanent residency, their tax contributions would go up by $5 million,” she said.

DACA, an Obama-era directive, made it possible for Dreamers to support the economy, Bauman said. 

“In Kentucky, like most other states, I think people who had DACA status were also eligible to get a driver’s license,” said Baumann. “Not only could they find jobs suited to them and be authorized to work there but they could drive a little farther to get to those jobs."

Baumann said with the work authorization, DACA recipients had more options with which jobs they could work. Without the work authorization, DREAMers may end up working for lower wage jobs or under the table.

"Dreamers are important to our community," said Baumann. "They go to school with our kids, they are working in our local economy, they're going to college, they're helping out their families and their neighbors. They're just like the native born Kentucky young people that we know who are so important to our communities and our economies."

DACA was rescinded in September by the Trump administration. The president said he wants Congress to come up with a permanent solution.

DACA allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to work and go to school without fear of deportation. The program did not give legal status nor did it provide a pathway to citizenship.

Featured image: March and rally/protest in New York City on September 9, 2017. 

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.