U.S. mayors ask Trump to keep young illegal immigration policy

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Mayors from the largest U.S. cities warned President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday of the potential economic harm he might cause if he wipes out a program that allows young illegal immigrants to remain in the United States.

Donald Trump poses for a photo after an interview with Reuters in his office in Trump Tower, in the Manhattan borough of New York City. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

They warned in a letter that as much as $9.9 billion in tax revenue would be lost over four years and $433.4 billion in U.S. gross domestic product would be wiped out over 10 years if he cancels a policy aimed at protecting these people from deportation.

DACA, or The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, was created through an executive order in 2012. It allows undocumented young people brought to the United States before the age of 16 to remain without fear of deportation as they pursue a higher education, work or engage in military service. The deferred action is subject to renewal every two years.

The mayors asked for the program to allow for initial applications and renewals to continue until “Congress modernizes our immigration system and provides a more permanent form of relief for these individuals.” As president, Trump would have the authority to undo DACA.

“This program helps foster economic growth and enhances public safety and national security,” said the letter, written by the Democratic Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, and signed by mayors of other major U.S. cities including New York, Los Angeles, and Houston.

“We are clear as mayors that these are dreamers who are seeking the American Dream, and we should embrace them rather than do a bait-and-switch,” Emanuel said after presenting Trump the letter at a meeting in New York.

Trump has called for the deportation of illegal immigrants, an estimated 11 million people, and promised to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

According to the letter, which was made available to the press, nearly 742,000 undocumented youths have participated in DACA.

DACA is part of the broader immigration issue of municipalities that offer themselves up as “sanctuary cities,” where local law enforcement refuse to report to federal authorities undocumented immigrants they encounter.

Trump has threatened to cut off federal funding for those municipalities. While he would have the authority to cut some kinds of funding, mayors of those cities have said they will not be pressured to report migrants to federal agents.

Santa Ana city council voted on Tuesday to declare their community in Southern California of 325,000 people, half of whom are foreign born and 80 percent of Hispanic descent, a sanctuary city.

In Los Angeles, the County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to ask county departments to provide plans for shielding undocumented immigrants from U.S. immigration authorities, said Jessie Gomez, a spokeswoman for Supervisor Hilda Solis.

The board oversees health, law enforcement and social welfare departments that operate county-wide but it does not administer the city of Los Angeles. Nearly one million residents of Los Angeles County are believed to be undocumented immigrants, according to Solis’ office.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Wednesday said he could not address the incoming president’s potential actions but that the current administration was working to ensure Trump’s team understood why Obama pursued the policy.

“The president’s been crystal clear, both in words and deeds, about his view that young people who are American in every way but their papers shouldn’t be deported ... A policy of deporting them would be inconsistent with our values,” Earnest said of DACA.

Reporting by Daniel Bases; Additional reporting by Melissa Fares in New York, Ayesha Rascoe in Washington and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by James Dalgleish