Randel K. Johnson
Former Senior Vice President, Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits


September 28, 2017


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was disappointed when President Trump decided to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

This program, established by President Obama in June 2012, provided relief from the threat of deportation for certain eligible individuals who were illegally brought to the United States as children. While reasonable minds can disagree about the merits of the legal justification used by the Obama administration to enact DACA, arguments about the negative impact that DACA recipients have had on the job prospects and wages of American workers is disingenuous.

DACA detractors would like the public to believe that DACA recipients are harming working class Americans by directly competing with them for jobs. Underlying this statement is the assumption that there are a fixed number of jobs in the economy such that when one job goes to a non-U.S. citizen, regardless of their legal status, that’s a job taken away from an American citizen. History shows us this line of reasoning to be fallacious. As noted recently in the Washington Post, the U.S. labor force doubled between 1970 and 2017. Rather than ending up with a 50 percent unemployment rate, U.S. employment grew two-fold.

The vast majority of DACA recipients work and they use their earnings to buy cars, gas, clothes, among other things. Their expenditures are someone else’s paycheck; they help expand our nation’s economic pie, they do not just take a slice.

A CATO Institute study published in January 2017 examined the costs associated with repealing the DACA program. It estimated that DACA recipients not only add several hundred billion dollars to the economy over a decade, but also generate billions of dollars of additional tax revenue. How? They pay more in taxes than they consume from government programs, in part because they are not eligible for means-tested federal benefits.

That same CATO study estimated the total costs of rescinding the DACA program and removing all DACA over 10 years. The total costs associated with engaging in this action would be $283 billion over 10 years. The United States economy could be poorer by more than a quarter of a trillion dollars if such a policy were seen through to its logical end. That outcome doesn’t work well for anyone.

The only logical action here is for Congress and the president to work together and craft legislation that will provide some certainty to the DACA recipients that allows them to remain in the U.S. and continue on with their lives.

We are encouraged by President Trump’s recent statements evidencing his willingness to work with Congress to find a compromise that will provide DACA recipients certainty in the U.S., and the U.S. Chamber is publicly committed to finding a legislative solution on this issue. While recent reports acknowledge that key details of any compromise still need to be hashed out, the president and Congress still have a six-month window to work out a solution. The U.S. Chamber has long been committed to commonsense immigration reforms and smart border security measures. We will continue to defend sound policy and work with Congress and the Trump administration to make this goal a reality.

About the authors

Randel K. Johnson

Johnson is the former Senior Vice President, Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits.