Business Columns & Blogs

Idaho Dreamers are a boon to the local economy. They should stay.

Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) gathered at the Statehouse on Sept. 9. Business Insider columnist Jerry Brady says these young people are a boon to the Idaho economy and community.
Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) gathered at the Statehouse on Sept. 9. Business Insider columnist Jerry Brady says these young people are a boon to the Idaho economy and community. Idaho Statesman file photo

Imagine 3,132 people gathered on an international border. Their average age is 25, they have spotless criminal records, all speak English and 91 percent are employed. They are, in other words, the human assets any economy would welcome, those who will pay taxes and support the retirement benefits of the elderly for decades — the very population missing in Europe and Japan.

Who are these young men and women and why are they here?

As you may have guessed, these are the Dreamers of Idaho, those young immigrants who, starting in 2012, came out of the shadows to work and go to college. However unless Congress acts in March they will be deported to countries virtually none has visited or has supporting family.

Since President Trump ended their protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on Sept. 5, we’ve begun to learn who these Idaho Dreamers are. For example, the Idaho Statesman reported on Sept. 6 that 29 Dreamers work for Micron and at least two dozen are students at Boise State University. They are better educated, more stable, family oriented and religious, and create more businesses than comparable non-immigrants, according to New York Times columnist Bret Stephens.

Yet from social science we know people respond to individual, human stories, not big numbers. Over the next six months we will consequently meet more Idaho Dreamers. Nonetheless it’s worth imagining how many young Idahoans would be massed at the border. (To be precise, 40 percent would be deported next March, another 40 percent in August 2019, the rest later.)

That’s like deporting all of McCall. Nationally, it’s like deporting both Omaha, Nebraska, and Pittsburgh: 787,580 Dreamers.

The principal reason for this, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, is that they’re taking jobs away from Americans. That’s rubbish. Unemployment in Idaho is 3 percent. Industry can’t find enough young, trained workers. Micron doesn’t employ Dreamers because it’s a dreamy company. This is not a zero-sum game.

We get it backwards. Retaining people who strive for more is not some great magnanimity, doing someone a favor. We’ve invested in Dreamers. We need them—not to haul manure and milk cows but in skilled jobs across the entire economy.

Deporting Dreamers is cruel and inhumane. It’s also bad for business, which is why Congress will eventually do the right thing.

Jerry Brady is a member of Compassionate Boise. jbrady2389@gmail.com.

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