“A man’s homeland is wherever he prospers.”
Human capital is the most valuable form of wealth. In the case of the United States, decades of positive demographic growth, driven mostly by immigration, have been the key to its standing as a world economic powerhouse. Many are puzzled by the news coming out of the White House regarding the Trump administration’s plans to address the fate of the nation’s own undocumented youth population.
Dreamers — undocumented young adults brought to the United States as children — represent a huge pool of the finest kind of human capital. But for some obscure motives, they have not been treated fairly or reasonably, not even when it is in this country’s best interests to do so.
Dreamers are Americans in every sense, except on paper. They are educated in your public schools, which are in turn paid for by your own taxes. In the specific case of the 800,000 participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, more than 90 percent are gainfully employed, enrolled in college, or are serving in the military.
Given these remarkable social indicators, it is perplexing to witness the decision — due in March — to rescind DACA, subjecting almost 1 million young people to uncertainty and distress. It is irresponsible, to say the least, to put in harm’s way these young Americans rather than working to steer public opinion to embrace them with a permanent solution to their legal status.
According to a January 2017 report by the Cato Institute, the US economy stands to lose at least $280 billion if all DACA participants were to be deported by the Trump administration. You cannot “make America great again” by sacrificing such a dynamic segment of the population.
Dreamers have become a bargaining chip for this administration’s absurd and expensive Mexican wall project. On top of that, the White House recently presented a list of hardline immigration measures that it is demanding in exchange for any deal to protect Dreamers. This could put the status of countless numbers of DACA participants at risk over the course of the next two years.
This is both cruel and irrational. It is cruel because Dreamers are foreign to their countries of origin. If expelled from the United States, they would become vulnerable and their plans would be shattered, their livelihoods destroyed, and their families pulled apart.
It is irrational, because in a country at full employment, the economic benefits to the United States from this remarkable demographic segment amount to billions of dollars per year.
But if this great blunder is made, then Mexico will be in a position to benefit greatly from a considerable windfall of human capital, since the majority of Dreamers remain Mexican citizens who will enjoy as full rights as the rest of the population.
While the American public perception may cast a country like Mexico as a migrant-sending nation, we are also a country of immigrants. As with any immigrant-receiving country, Mexico has experienced waves of people from the most diverse places, including in Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and even North America. Today, Mexico is home to more than 1 million Americans, the largest expat community coming from your country.
My own great-great-grandfather arrived from Great Britain in the 19th century, looking for a better life, and some of the top executives in my companies come from Argentina, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, and, of course, the United States.
Most groups of immigrants have historically represented a godsend for Mexico, but Dreamers are a class by themselves. They are a vast pool of highly educated, young, bicultural, and hard-working people. In the remote likelihood that the US government makes the fatal mistake of deporting them, Mexico will have to do everything in its power to assimilate this impressive group of young people and make them feel welcome and empowered. My country would profit greatly from one of the largest human capital windfalls in history, the benefits would be incalculable and lasting, all at the expense of the American taxpayer.
Ricardo B. Salinas is chairman and founder of Grupo Salinas.