President Donald Trump's decision to end a program that protects hundreds of thousands of people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children could cost the economy hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday announced the "wind down" over the next six months of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields some 800,000 young immigrants from deportation. Unless Congress acts to replace the Obama-era program with similar protections, those people would no longer be allowed to work in the U.S.
The loss of those workers, and the paychecks they earn, would dampen the American economy, hitting hardest in states like California and Florida with the largest share of DACA participants, according to groups that support the protection of those immigrants from deportation.
"To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. It's just that simple."
A report last month from FWD.us, a pro-immigration reform group co-founded by Mark Zuckerberg, found that 91 percent of DACA recipients are employed. Canceling the program would mean roughly 30,000 a month would lose their work permits as their DACA status expires, the report said.
That economic impact would be felt unevenly across the country. California, with an estimated 188,000 DACA workers, would suffer a GDP loss of $11.3 billion a year, according to the research. Texas would lose $6.1 billion in GDP annually, and North Carolina would lose $1.9 billion a year.
"To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here," Sessions said in announcing the Trump administration's decision. "It's just that simple."
The cancellation of the program comes as Congress returns from its August recess to a busy calendar. In addition to an ambitious effort to overhaul the nation's tax code, lawmakers have just 12 legislative work days left before the end of September. That marks the deadline for funding the government, appropriating billions of dollars in disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey, reauthorizing the federal flood insurance program and raising the Treasury's debt limit, among other items.
Some business leaders, led by those in the technology industry, have been mobilizing to support the program. Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog post on Thursday that the company knows of 27 employees who are DACA beneficiaries, including software engineers, finance professionals and sales associates.
"These employees, along with other DREAMers, should continue to have the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to our country's strength and prosperity," Smith wrote.
In addition, a letter circulated among tech companies by Zuckerberg-backed FWD.us expressed concern over the threatened demise of DACA, calling "dreamers" vital to the economy. Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Google's Sundar Pichai and Microsoft's Satya Nadella are among the signers of the letter.
"With them, we grow and create jobs," the letter said. "They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage."
Republicans on Capitol Hill are divided on the issue. Some GOP lawmakers have urged Trump not to rescind the program, including House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
"I actually don't think we should do that," he told a Wisconsin radio station last week. "This is something that Congress has to fix."
On Friday, Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch issued a statement urging Trump to keep the program in order to protect "individuals who entered our country unlawfully as children through no fault of their own and who have built their lives here."
But the program faces strong opposition from Republicans at the state level.
In June, 10 Republican state attorneys general urged the Trump administration to rescind the program, noting the government did not have to revoke permits that had already been issued. If the federal government did not withdraw DACA by Tuesday, the attorneys general said they would file a legal challenge to the program in a Texas federal court.
The 10 who signed the letter represent Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.
A larger coalition of 26 Republican attorneys general had challenged the Obama-era policy covering parents who entered the country illegally, known as DAPA, which had been blocked by the courts before it took effect. The Department of Homeland Security rescinded that policy earlier this year.