Rural Organizing

For Immediate Release 
December 7, 2017

Contact | Matt Hildreth

New Data on Contributions of Dreamers in Rural America

Small Towns to Gain if Congress Passes the Dream Act and Cements Young Immigrants’ Economic and Social Contributions

Columbus, OH – As the U.S. Congress gets closer to a potential vote on the Dream Act this year, Democrats on the House and Senate Joint Economic Committee (JEC) released a fact sheet about the contributions of DACA beneficiaries in rural America.  

DACA is the government program whereby certain undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children could apply for work permits and not be deported.  President Trump recently ended this program, but has called on Congress to replace it with legislation.  

According to the fact sheet “Rural DACA By the Numbers”:

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients play a large role in rural communities, where their economic contributions are helping rural towns get back on their feet from years of slow economic growth. In rural America, these estimated tens of thousands of young people are part of the answer to building sustainable economies in small towns across the country.

Key takeaways from the fact sheet include:

  • DACA made it possible for many Dreamers in rural areas to get jobs, start businesses, advance their degrees, and contribute more to their families.  Giving individuals access to the basic tools they need to succeed and setting them free to sink or swim is a common value in America.  As this study shows, DACA recipients are swimming and succeeding.     
  • DACA also made it possible for rural Dreamers to make major purchases – such as cars (66%) and homes (22%) – many for the first time ever.  These purchases support local businesses, help local economies, and add to the tax base.

The following is a statement from Ofelia Rumbo Valdez, a former DACA recipient and HR manager of an agricultural cooperative in rural Iowa:

DACA opened a door to many young undocumented people to enter the workforce and/or to continue their education. Most businesses in rural communities in Iowa are struggling to find and keep young talent due to majority of young people moving to bigger cities after high school graduation. With DACA, many of us that had degrees in specialized areas and love living in rural Iowa were anxiously waiting for an opportunity to fulfill our career aspirations locally contributing back to our families and local economies.

According to Adi Cabrera, DACA recipient, new homeowner and elementary school educator in Robbins, North Carolina:

As a Hispanic woman, as a strong Meredith graduate, and as a rural community member, I've had the opportunity to see an even playing field thanks to the help from DACA. This has allowed me to take on the responsibility to educate the leaders, professionals, and advocates of tomorrow. I've become an educator in the same school system I attended growing up. Without the support from DACA, I would have been another figure in the educational and economical gap seen trending throughout rural states nationwide. My community is witness to the increase in students staying in school, going back to school, or completing specialized/technical degrees because of DACA. We are promoting our local economy by achieving and giving back.

According to Nereyda Calero, a DACA recipient, health assistant, and EMT in Missoula Montana:

“DACA” is a small word with and immense meaning and power to many young undocumented immigrants.  DACA gave me the opportunity and the confidence that I️ needed by letting me work in the healthcare industry, being a contributing person to society and being able to provide my kids with a better future.  Thanks to DACA I️ was able to go to school to become  an EMT and it’s a dream come true to work as a health care assistant in the Cardio/Respiratory Unit in one of the top 100 Cardiovascular hospitals in the Nation and recently having the opportunity to work on a Hispanic/Latino study on hypertension and Diabetes for the Montana State University. I️ pray to God that all these dreams and opportunities are not taken away from me or any of the other 800,000 Dreamers. We need the Dream Act, we need it now.

According to Plinio Magana, a DACA recipient from South Sioux City, Nebraska and Business Administration Student at Wayne State College:

Congress has the obligation to pass a clean DREAM Act because that’s what the president argued when he decided to end DACA. He gave congress six months to act and time is running out. But not for Congress but for the more than 800,000 Dreamer that will lose their status due to the inaction of congress. If congress doesn’t pass a law, they are not the ones that are going to be losing their jobs; is Dreamers that will lose everything they work so hard for. We need congress to pass a permanent solution once and for all. I want to make a call to all the community to get in touch with our representatives and ask them for their support for the DREAM Act.

According to Pedro Ruiz, a DACA recipient, entrepreneur, and Youth Development Soccer Director in Sioux Center, Iowa:

DACA gave kids in small towns and rural communities, a window of opportunity that we had all been ready for. It gave us a shot at taking on our careers and a chance at the "American Dream.” With the freedom that DACA offered me, I have been able to turn my passion into a career, and intend on sharing the success with the ones I love. Thanks to DACA, I have earned my seat at the table.

According to Vania Saldias, a DACA recipient and HR Director in Delta, Ohio:

In my role as HR Director for a large, greenhouse produce grower in Northwest Ohio, I oversee the operations of the human resources department and supervise compensation, benefits, labor relations, hiring etc. My company prioritizes the hiring of folks within our community for a variety of jobs within the greenhouse. My company is one of the larger employers in the area and stands as the largest bell pepper grower in North America and the largest tomato grower in Canada. I was raised in this community, graduated high school and college here, and am currently giving back to it in my role. I have established myself as a contributing member of this community and for this reason, among many others, I deserve a chance to continue my work. This is why it’s so important that Congress pass a sensible solution to fix the dilemma I and others currently face.

According to Elvis Saldias, a DACA recipient who grew up in rural Northwest Ohio:

The contributions of DACA recipients are not only present in metropolitan areas but also in rural ones. This is evident to me, someone who grew up in rural Ohio, and whose family continues to live there, every day. Although I currently work in insurance in Columbus, I did spend most my life in my Northwest Ohio community. That is where I took my first few jobs, began college, and bought my first car. One of my first jobs after high school was to be a farmhand at large farm along the state line between Ohio and Michigan. There I experienced the toils of farming and the work ethic necessary to succeed in it. It’s crucial that Congress protect the members of this community, communities across the great state of Ohio, and nationwide with the passage of the DREAM Act.        

If Congress passes legislation to stabilize the status of Dreamers, the contributions outlined in this new fact sheet would not only be cemented but expanded.  The Center for American Progress finds that passing the Dream Act would add at least $281 billion, and as much as $1 trillion, to US GDP over a decade.  "But the benefits from the Dream Act accrue not just to the nation as a whole," the researchers write, "but to individual states as well, and individual industries in those states."

State-by-state breakdowns of the economic impact of the Dream Act are available here.

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