‘Dreamers’ Make Important Contributions to Maryland

May 5, 2017 by Ellen Hutton in Blog

For years, Maryland has recognized the benefits of welcoming immigrants into its colleges and universities, including giving all Maryland residents an opportunity to pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of immigration status. Policies like these are good for the college classroom, as well as our economy as a whole – and they may now be at risk.

It is unclear, as of now, whether the Trump administration will choose to end protections for young adults who came to the U.S. as children and have legal status through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. If the administration elects to end the program, thousands of Marylanders could lose their jobs and ability to attend college, many business could lose valued workers, and Maryland could lose nearly $14 million annually in state and local tax revenue.

Maryland is home to 24,000 young adults who are eligible for DACA, although only 11,110 are actually enrolled in the program. DACA grants work authorization to young adults whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children and puts any potential deportation proceedings on hold. DACA protections allow individuals who are enrolled to meaningfully engage in the communities where they live by attending higher education institutions, gaining legal employment, and paying their fair share of taxes.

All immigrants living in Maryland pay some amount of state and local taxes. Many use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers to file income tax returns. Those who don’t pay income tax are still contributing to investments in their communities by paying sales taxes on the goods and services that they purchase. Those who own homes pay property tax, and those who don’t pay it indirectly as renters.

Currently, DACA-eligible individuals in Maryland contribute $40.8 million per year in state and local taxes. If 100 percent of eligible individuals enrolled in the program that amount would increase by $16.1 million, and if all of those individuals were granted citizenship, the increase would be $18 million. Granting immigrants work authorization or citizenship increases the employment rate and wages for those individuals, and their tax contributions increase as a result.

Many DACA recipients in Maryland are high-achieving students who contribute academically to the colleges that they attend. A number of colleges and universities in Maryland have taken steps toward becoming sanctuary campuses in order to protect students who may be in danger of deportation if DACA protections abruptly come to an end. However, these actions could put the federal funding that these institutions receive at risk. Ending DACA would force college administrators to make a tough decision between protecting students and safeguarding funding.

Most DACA-eligible young adults have spent most of their lives in the U.S.; life here is all they know. Deporting these young adults to places where they spent only a few of their earliest years, where they may have no support network and few economic and academic opportunities, is not only unfair to them but also is damaging to the Maryland communities that currently benefit culturally and economically from their inclusion.

Maryland is already facing a budget shortfall and reductions in tax revenue due to the federal hiring freeze and staff reductions. Further revenue losses, due to the end of DACA protections, would make it even more difficult for Maryland to make adequate investments to preserve the strength of our communities. Preserving DACA and allowing “Dreamers” to continue working and attending college without fear of deportation is good for Maryland.