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Students aim to track economic benefits of immigration reform

Monday, 06 July 2015

Francisco López-Flores was talking to numerous investors in May to pitch a project to track the economic benefits of immigration reform. However, one potential investor told López-Flores not to waste his time with mere hobbies.

But for many undocumented students like López-Flores, who have had family members deported, the project was personal.

López-Flores, who graduated in fall 2014, was pitching DACAMENT ME, a project which aims to survey about 100,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to prove that immigration reform is beneficial for the United States economy.

This summer, the group is creating a computer program that would analyze the findings of the surveys, said López-Flores, one of the founders of the group.

In 2012, the Obama administration implemented DACA to defer the deportations of undocumented individuals brought to the United States as children. The executive order allows individuals to acquire the documentation necessary to obtain jobs, bank accounts and drivers’ licenses in certain states, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

In November, President Barack Obama also announced Deferred Action for Parents of American and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, and expanded DACA, which defers the deportations of undocumented individuals who are parents of legal residents. However, the program is currently blocked due to a February federal court order.

López-Flores said he came up with the idea to survey DACA recipients after noticing his own wages increased after he received DACA.

“After I received DACA, I didn’t have to be paid under the table anymore,” he said. “I could now get real wages and apply for better paying jobs.”

In December, a group of students traveled to the White House as part of a Chicana/o studies class to present an analysis of DACA’s economic impacts to policymakers.

They shared that survey with more than 200 DACA recipients nationwide, said Stephanie Ramírez, a fourth-year Chicana/o studies and political science student, and the results of the surveys they conducted showed that recipients’ wages increased on average by nearly 100 percent after receiving DACA.

Their research also showed that this trend could contribute nearly $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy, said Rudy Morales, who graduated from UCLA in the spring.

Morales, Ramírez and López-Flores teamed up after the Washington, D.C. trip to form DACAMENT ME and have since expanded it to include three more students.

“UCLA was a great place to learn and start the project, but this is a national issue and we need to make this more than just a research project,” López-Flores said.

Morales said their idea for the computer program, which they are currently working on this summer, won first place at the Latin@ Coder Summit at Stanford University in May.

López-Flores said winning the competition gave the group access to mentors and investors who could help fund and expand the project. They also received $1,000, which will be spent on tools to create their computer program, he added.

López-Flores said he hopes the sponsors and mentors will help make DACAMENT ME an official program at UCLA, like a class or student organization, through which future students can contribute.

“Once people start seeing the effects of (the research), I don’t see why we wouldn’t be able to get more funding,” he said.

 Kayleen Ports, a fourth-year biochemistry student and a new recruit to the DACAMENT ME team, said she joined the project in order to learn more about immigration reform. She said she thinks getting concrete data will get the ball moving on a political solution for this issue.

 “I think that while we’ve tried presenting the emotional side of (immigration reform), that hasn’t worked,” she said. “Now we have to get data and use it to show that reform is good for the country as a whole.”

López-Flores said they expect to release a completed version of the survey in the fall and hope to raise $1 million for the program by reaching out to investors over the next year.

Source: Daily Bruin

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