Business Leaders of Color Stand Up For Immigrants and DACA

These executives are sending a strong message to their employees, customers, and Trump

The Trump administration’s recent announcement to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program triggered pandemonium in immigrant communities across the nation. Since then, President Donald Trump has met with top Democratic officials, signaling that he may be willing to extend the popular immigration reform program and support the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which would create a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants. However, shortly after offering some hope in protecting immigrants, the president created more confusion on Thursday, stating that he has no intention of creating a pathway to citizenship for immigrants. Ironically, he also said that he supports the idea of letting DACA recipients remain in the country.

“We’re not looking at citizenship,” Trump told reporters, according to The Washington Post. “We’re not looking at amnesty. We’re looking at allowing people to stay here. We’re talking about taking care of people, people who were brought here, people who’ve done a good job.”

While it remains unclear exactly where 45 stands on immigration, the status, lives, and livelihoods of almost 1 million DACA recipients has been placed in an unpredictable limbo.

 

What is DACA?

 

DACA is a program that former President Barack Obama implemented in 2012 by using executive power. Under the program, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and fit within certain requirements are legally permitted to stay in the country for a temporary amount of time. If DACA is rolled back, it will put up to 800,000 immigrants, commonly known as “Dreamers,” at risk of deportation, despite their enormous economic and cultural contributions, which have made our country stronger. This could also result in a $433.4 billion reduction to U.S. GDP over the next decade, while 75% of major companies would lose employees who benefit from DACA.

 

DACA (Image: iStock/vichinterlang)

 

Still, the potential economic implications have not stopped the right’s anti-immigrant agenda. Conservatives have also successfully purported Mexicans and other Latino migrants as the face of illegal immigration when, in reality, black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are the biggest targets of anti-immigration policies. In fact, black immigrants are three times more likely to be deported. But, without the protection of DACA, the number of deportations of African and Caribbean immigrants would substantially increase. On top of that, the best and brightest immigrants would be shipped off since many DACA recipients hold college degrees and have engaged in no or little criminal activity.

 

Response from the Business Community

 

In response to the Trump administration’s initial announcement, a number of companies and business leaders have spoken out in support of immigrants. In an email, Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, a renowned politician and entrepreneur who owns 55 businesses around the world, told Black Enterprise that many immigrants who come to the U.S.  are “smart, well motivated, and eager to innovate,” just like him. It’s important to protect DACA recipients because many are “happy to produce and prosper and their contributions will help make America a better nation for all of its citizens because they come from everywhere in the world,” he said.

Nduom left his hometown in Ghana when he received a scholarship to attend high school in Minnesota. He went on to obtain a B.A. in economics, a masters in Management, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Today, he is the chairman of IFS Bank, which has $110 million in assets. He says early in his career, he met other people of different nationalities who were committed to “working in productive sectors of the economy to promote the development of the American economy.  They were doing it with enthusiasm and making great contributions in high and low places.  It struck me how immigrants were doing a lot of the work many Americans felt were beneath them but were necessary to the health of the economy.  More importantly, many immigrants, like me, were working at the high end, implementing innovations for the benefit of the system.”  

Likewise, the YMCA released a press release reaffirming the benefits of welcoming immigrant contributions. “At the Y, we are firm believers that our communities are more prosperous and cohesive when everyone feels welcomed and has equitable access to resources to reach their full potential,” said Lynda Gonzales-Chavez, senior vice president and chief diversity officer for the YMCA of the USA,” reads the statement.

Furthermore, hundreds of business leaders, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and AT&T CEO Randall L. Stephenson, signed an open letter blasting Trump for ending DACA.

“Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy. With them, we grow and create jobs,” reads the letter. “They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage.”

In addition to signing the letter, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who happens to be an immigrant himself, released a separate statement on LinkedIn.

“Smart immigration can help our economic growth and global competitiveness,” he wrote. “As a CEO, I see each day the direct contributions that talented employees from around the world bring to our company, our customers and to the broader economy. We care deeply about the DREAMers who work at Microsoft and fully support them. We will always stand for diversity and economic opportunity for everyone.”

Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed on Twitter that Apple currently employees dozens of DACA recipients.