State chamber, NJBIA, top businesses joining lawsuit fighting to protect DACA

Some of New Jersey’s largest pharmaceutical and technology companies, along with both the New Jersey Business & Industry Association and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, have joined Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s fight to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

The reasons cited in both an amicus brief and a suit Grewal filed in May are numerous, but they boil down to a significant negative impact on the state’s economy if DACA were to end.

Among them:

  • As of March 2017, there were 22,024 DACA recipients in New Jersey, and 87 percent of that population is working, according to the Center for American Progress;
  • DACA-eligible individuals had a spending power of $679 million in 2015, according to Partnership for a New Economy;
  • The total estimated GDP loss to the state that would result from removing DACA workers is $1.6 billion, the fifth-highest dollar loss of all states, according to New Jersey Policy Perspective;
  • DACA-eligible workers contribute approximately $66 million in state and local taxes to New Jersey each year — the seventh-highest amount for all states, according to NJPP;
  • If DACA were eliminated, New Jersey would lose an estimated $21 million in annual tax revenue.

Grewal filed suit in May against Texas and six other states, which are arguing that DACA is illegal, in federal court in the Southern District of Texas.

Lowenstein Sandler filed the amicus brief Monday to join New Jersey in State of Texas, et al. v. United States of America, et al., on behalf of Audible, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Montclair State University, Prudential Financial, Sanofi US and Verizon Communications, in addition to NJBIA and the chamber.

Rutgers University President Robert Barchi filed a declaration to support Grewal’s case in May.

The companies, in the amicus brief, support DACA and state that the contribution of their employees is irreplaceable.

The state’s outmigration has been significantly buoyed by immigrants from other countries.

Statistics from the state show that, even though there was an outmigration of almost 55,000 people in 2014, the impact was stabilized by an in-migration of 51,000 people from other countries.

And they fill positions that are not, as critics often claim, being taken away from citizens.

NJBIA CEO and President Michele Siekerka said one of her employees is a DACA grantee.

“I can speak from personal experience. We hire for skill,” she said. “We’re hiring someone for the skill they bring to the position, and then they have to perform on the job.

“So, clearly, folks who are employed by New Jersey companies and are in New Jersey universities … clearly have a skill set.”

And they contribute to the state through taxes, homeownership and shopping, Siekerka said.

Also misunderstood is the ability of undocumented immigrants to apply for Social Security or tax identification numbers — so, even if they are not recognized by the country, they are paying into state and federal coffers.

“And, of course, you have to have an I-9 (employment eligibility form) to work at any company in New Jersey,” Siekerka said. “In order to have an I-9, you have to have proof that you are here in an appropriate manner, and DACA students are here in an appropriate manner.”

New Jersey is home to an estimated 53,000 DACA-eligible residents and a total of 17,400 current, active DACA grantees, according to the attorney general.

Of the 53,000, about 15,900 are currently employed; more than 900 own their own businesses; 7,800 are in school; 5,600 are pursuing a bachelor’s, master’s or professional degree; and 12,650 have an American citizen sibling, spouse or child.

President Donald Trump’s administration announced an end to DACA in 2017, but has been stopped by several courts.

“Dreamers (DACA grantees) are entrepreneurs, wage earners and taxpayers,” Grewal said in May. “They have careers, own homes and cars, and have U.S. citizen children, siblings and spouses. We are on the side of right in this matter, because DACA is lawful, and we can point to a multitude of ways in which ending the program will cause the state significant harm.”