The decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by President Trump will put 800,000 young undocumented immigrants at risk of being deported if they cannot secure status under other immigration programs. Many of those are highly skilled individuals who are entrepreneurial or work in the high tech world.
These individuals came to the United States with their families while they were minors and have since gone to school, university and started work. Over four hundred companies have urged the President and Congress not to rescind the program for fear of losing some very talented employees.
Apple’s Tim Cook took to Twitter moments after the announcement to say, “250 of my Apple coworkers are #Dreamers. I stand with them. They deserve our respect as equals and a solution rooted in American values.” He went on to tweet, “#Dreamers contribute to our companies and our communities just as much as you and I. Apple will fight for them to be treated as equals.”
According to Moody’s Chief Economist Mark Zandi, the repeal of DACA will reduce the labour force by 0.5% over five years and translate into to a loss of $105 billion over that same period. “The dreamers are on track to be a highly educated group and losing them will be a significant blow to businesses already struggling to find educated and skilled young workers,” he said.
And therein lies Canada’s opportunity.
Just like the Conservative’s decision under John Diefenbaker to cancel the AVRO Arrow in the sixties sent thousands of highly skilled engineers and scientists to the United States, many working for NASA and the moon program, the Trump decision may provide the same opportunity for Canada.
Large US firms such as Microsoft, IBM and others have Canadian operations that can accommodate these Dreamers. Instead of deporting them to their home countries, which they have little connection to, it would be better to transfer them to Canada where they could their work for Canadian subsidiaries.
The potential windfall for Canada could be enormous as these highly skilled workers look for a place that offers them the opportunities that led their parents to the United States.
Canadian cities like Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Toronto have been recognized for the quality of life, work opportunities and innovation by Forbes, Business Insider and The Economist to name a few.
Imagine what an influx of these young, highly desirable immigrants can do to boost the Canadian economy.
The federal government needs to put together a program that will encourage Dreamers to apply for immigration to Canada. Working together with the business community this could be one of the largest jumpstarts that the Canadian economy could see in years.
A similar situation took place in Israel where thousands of immigrants, many with advanced degrees left the former Soviet Union for Israel. Despite its small size and many challenges, these immigrants successfully integrated into the economy and became one of the biggest reasons for Israel’s high tech success.
DACA recipients are the type of people Canada want; young, highly educated, fluent English speakers, that have already been pre-screened for security threats and come with background checks already performed.
The demise of the AVRO Arrow set Canada back as a potential leader in aerospace technology. It also sent some of the best and brightest to the US, from which we did not recover for decades. Trump, with this move, could potentially inflict the same damage on the United States. Canada needs to be ready to take advantage of this opportunity.
Marcel Wieder is President and Chief Advocate of Aurora Strategy Group. He is an award winning political consultant who has worked on campaigns for over forty years.