Tech industry power players collectively called upon President Donald Trump on Thursday to protect immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The group collectively believes that to rescind DACA would result in negative economic ramifications, as well as the deportation of people who have lived in the U.S. since childhood.
The open letter — addressed to Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) — was signed by Facebook, Apple, and Google executives, and called to preserve the DACA program to protect DREAMers, the group of immigrants shielded by DACA.
Others who signed the letter include representatives from Airbnb, Amazon, General Motors, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, and more.
What is DACA?
DACA is an Obama-era program implemented to protect immigrants from deportation if they were brought illegally to the U.S. as children.
The program was designed to allow illegal immigrants the opportunity to request a "consideration of deferred action" and remain in the U.S. so long as certain criteria were met. Some of the criteria for DACA eligibility include having been brought to the U.S. illegally as a child under 16 years of age, being under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and having continuously lived in the U.S. since 2007.
To retain DACA status, eligibility is contingent upon the immigrant's possession of a high school diploma or GED, as well as not having a criminal record.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status."
Those approved for DACA status can request "deferred action" for up to two years — with possibility of renewal — and are eligible for a work permit for employment within the U.S.
What the letter said
Tech leaders implored government leaders to take into consideration that "DACA recipients grew up in America, registered with our government, submitted to extensive background checks, and are diligently giving back to our communities and paying income taxes."
The letter argued that, should DACA end, DREAMers' contributions to the economy would end, and the U.S. economy would lose "$460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions."
The letter stated that "more than 97 percent" of those covered under DACA "are in school or in the workforce," and that 5 percent of those covered under DACA started their own business, and 16 percent of DREAMers had already purchased their own home.
"At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies count DACA recipients among their employees," the letter continued.
"Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy," the letter stated. "With them, we grow and create jobs. They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage."
Why the letter?
Trump is expected to announce possible changes — and even a halt — to the DACA program Friday, which was prompted by 10 state attorneys general who threatened in July to sue the the federal government, should Trump avoid dissolving protections enforced by DACA by Sept. 5.
Though Trump campaigned on a promise to do away with DACA upon taking office, he's held off so far.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, DACA was addressed on Trump's website. Though the page no longer exists, Trump's website referred to DACA as an "illegal executive amnesty" and noted that should Trump be elected as president, the program would "immediately" be terminated. Trump's campaign team during the election stressed the importance of phasing out DACA in order to target and weed out "criminals."
However, in a January interview, Trump said that DREAMers shouldn't be "very worried" about DACA changes, because "I have a big heart."
"We're going to have a very strong border, we're going to have a very solid border," he said. "Where you have great people that are here that have done a good job, they should be far less worried. We'll be coming out with policy on that in the next four weeks."
If the state attorneys general do opt to sue the federal government and the courts deem the DACA program unconstitutional, the DACA program could be put on hold for an indeterminate period of time.
Should the president elect to dismantle the program, however, DREAMers living in the U.S. would be allowed to remain in the country until such a time as their work permits expired — which, for some, could be up to two years.