academy-sponsors-fall2016Today, nearly 60 percent of all jobs in the U.S economy require a higher education. We find ourselves short on educated professionals to fill those jobs — especially educators and health care professionals. We simply claim “no one is going into those fields,” but we fail to count the thousands of undocumented professionals. Despite having an education, these individuals end up being underemployed. They have the credentials and abilities to fill the much needed positions, but cannot due to their lack of documentation.

Many undocumented immigrants fight against all odds to obtain a college education in hopes of one day contributing to American society. But all too often, their plans are derailed due to their undocumented status. They complete their undergraduate degrees — some even go on to earn advanced degrees — yet many find themselves working as waitresses, cooks, or janitors due to their lack of social security numbers and work authorization, thus costing the United States millions of job opportunities and potential tax revenue.

Every year, tens of thousands of highly educated, highly skilled workers leave the United States because they’re undocumented, taking with them their skills, education, and economic potential. Before making this life-altering decision they think to themselves, “after investing in a new career, can I go back to living on the fringe?

A comprehensive immigration reform would help fix this issue, but sadly, we are nowhere near one. This upcoming presidential election is key to make this go forward. By electing a president who will act in the best interest of the United States and enact programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Expansion (DACA+) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) to keep the talent these individuals bring to the table,  the U.S will not lose out on too many revenue and job opportunities.

DACA comes from a 2012 executive order by President Barack Obama protecting eligible undocumented individuals from deportation and allowing them to lawfully work in the U.S, to help with this epidemic, but unfortunately many undocumented individuals were left out due to holes in the program.

In 2014, Obama announced the DAPA and DACA+ Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Expansions programs to bring relief to the millions of people who are living in the shadows. These strategies attracted a great amount of attention from 26 states round the country, including Texas and Wisconsin, all of which collectively filed a lawsuit. These programs would have protected as many as 3.6 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and would have made them eligible for work authorization. Sadly, this past June, the 4-4 vote in the U.S Supreme Court deemed the executive action unconstitutional. It is unfortunate that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the circuit court ruling on the DAPA and expanded DACA programs because they would have provided relief to additional undocumented individuals to prevent a brain-drain from occurring in the U.S.

Growing up undocumented comes with many negative stereotypes, one of which is being seen as a burden on Americans and their economy, when in reality undocumented immigrants make substantial contributions. Those opposing implementation of DAPA and DACA + should consider the economic benefits. According to a report from the Center for American Progress, DAPA and DACA + would have resulted in a cumulative GDP (gross domestic product) increase of $164 billion, an $88 billion increase in incomes for all Americans. Additionally, these programs would have resulted in payroll tax increases of $16.7 billion over five years. The “they will take more of our jobs” argument also goes out the door, because DAPA and DACA + would have created 20,538 jobs per year for over the next 10 years: thus, creating more job opportunities and boosting the American economy.

The DAPA and the expansion of DACA programs would kill two birds with one stone:  they would fill the positions for the professions that we so desperately need and give undocumented individuals the opportunity to use their degrees and contribute to the American economy, instead of taking their valuable skills and knowledge to another country. After all, why would we want to expel those talented individuals that were educated by the American education system?

“Well, we don’t need them anyway. They’re a burden on all Americans,” some say. This argument is a clearly Xenophobia because in reality, they are burdening America by allowing these talented individuals to take their skills to another country. On average, the U.S spends a little over $11 thousand to educate students in public elementary and secondary schools. According to a recent survey, an estimated 65% of DACA recipients are currently in school. Of those, the majority are pursuing undergraduate degrees and 17% are enrolled in advanced degrees. This goes to show the positive effects the already-implemented DACA program has had, not only on DACA beneficiaries but on American society as well.

So I pose the question once again, why do we keep allowing these brilliant individuals to take their skills to a foreign country, when we need them here?

This piece was produced by a student in the Madison365 Academy program. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Madison365, its staff, its board of directors, or its sponsors.