America cannot afford to turn away her dreamers. According to ICE, the average cost per deportation in 2016 was approximately $10,000. Thus, it would cost approximately $8 billion to deport America’s 800,000 Dreamers, and that’s just the cost of deportation. Additionally, the National Immigration Law Center estimates that 91 percent of DACA recipients are employed. The Center for American Progress estimates that losing the roughly 728,000 employed DACA recipients would cost the U.S. a $460.3 billion loss in GDP over the next 10 years. Not only is it unethical to retract our promises to these young people and to spend taxpayer dollars on their needless detention and deportations, but the loss of their contributions to our society is not a loss America can afford.
The physician shortage is a prime example. Because of the time it takes to train future doctors, we have to look at the population projections of 10-15 years in the future in order to ensure we have the doctors we’ll need. Current projections by the Association of American Medical Colleges predict that by the time today’s high school seniors are old enough to be licensed physicians (about 2030), doctors will have to do the workload of 100,000 non-existent co-workers in addition to caring for their own patients.
Luckily, Congress is considering legislation that will alleviate the bottleneck in training physicians by increasing the number of available residency positions by 15,000 spots over the next five years. If successful, S1301 and HR2267 will make a significant dent in our pending physician shortage. However, it will take up to 12 years for some of those new residency spots to graduate their first classes. Proposed legislation alone is not sufficient to make sure we have the doctors we need to keep America happy, healthy, and reaching our economic potential.
One of the worst things we could do for the physician shortage is fail to protect the more than 100 dreamers that are currently in medical school and their 5,400 otherwise ineligible future counterparts. That is a mistake we cannot afford to make. Even if Congress comes through with more residencies, we will still need to import additional doctors or go without. Deporting even one of these medical school Dreamers means America is short a doctor for a minimum of 7-15 years, if not indefinitely.
So why not just give waivers to the Dreamers in the medical field? Such a waiver would help in this example, but it wouldn’t overcome losses like the $3.4 billion in employee turnover costs and the $24.6 billion in Medicare and Social Security contributions the Immigration Legal Resource Center predicts Dreamers’ inability to work would cost America. Not to mention that leaving U.S. citizen children with unemployed or deported parents, U.S. citizen retirees with fewer contributors to Social Security and U.S. citizen chronically ill and disabled patients with fewer healthy people contributing to Medicare isn’t a wise financial decision for a country that’s still pulling out of an economic recession.
Furthermore, basic macroeconomics principles show that health care isn’t the only industry in which we can’t afford to lose our employed Dreamers. Our population growth rate is a measly 0.7 percent per year. That doesn’t supply enough laborers to sustain a growing economy. If we’re going to have an economically prosperous America, we need a growing labor force. We need our Dreamers.
We can’t afford to force these students and young people to put their lives on hold for 3-10 years so they can sit in timeout in the country of their birth. Continuing their education in another country poses all kinds of problems in gaining the necessary licensure to ever be able to work in the United States and derails careers. We need an option for these kids to “square themselves with the law” they never chose to break, so they can resume their efforts to take care of their fellow Americans. America needs her dreamers.
Kaitlyn Dressman holds a degree in chemistry from Brigham Young University and a degree in Spanish from Utah Valley University. She is currently a student at Touro College of Medicine and is a team leader for Mormon Women for Ethical Government.