Nearly 825,000 people are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program at present. DACA was started in 2012 under the Obama administration and allows undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit.
The Trump administration announced on September 5, 2017, that it would be rescinding DACA, with a six-month delay to give Congress time to come up with a legislative solution. Congress failed to find a solution and the six months expired on March 5, 2018.
Three separate U.S. district courts declared that under the Administrative Procedure Act, the DACA rescinding is arbitrary and capricious. Hence, they ordered an injunction preventing the phase-out of the DACA program. The Supreme Court affirmed the injunctions.
On January 20, 2021, days after taking office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order which directed the Department of Homeland Security to “restore and maintain” DACA. The relief this brought to those protected under DACA did not last long.
Andrew Hanen, district court judge of the Southern District of Texas, ruled that DACA is illegal. He barred the government from accepting new applications under the DACA program. However, he did allow the continued protection and renewal of the status of immigrants already enrolled in this program.
What did DACA do for the immigrants?
The program allowed eligible immigrants to work legally in the United States and also shielded them from deportation. DACA recipients have often referred to themselves as “dreamers,” in reference to the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), a proposed but never enacted federal law that would have provided similar protections.
Research shows that DACA:
- Significantly increased employment among its recipients
- Increased earnings and working hours
- Encouraged better English proficiency
- Improved mental health outcomes
It has also been observed that immigrant neighborhoods had lower crime rates than comparable neighborhoods without DACA recipients.
How have DACA beneficiaries contributed to the US economy?
It is often said that the cost of running DACA is drawing on state resources. But DACA recipients are an integral part of the US workforce. They pay an estimated $6.2 billion in federal taxes and $3.3 billion in state and local taxes annually.
According to the Center for American Progress (CAP) analysis in Fall 2021, the DACA program allowed its beneficiaries, as well as their families and communities, more stability in their lives. The average DACA recipient arrived in the US at the age of 7 years. More than one-third of them before the age of 5. More than 1.3 million are living with a DACA recipient.
About three-quarters of DACA recipients (343,000) are employed in essential jobs, including:
- 34,000 health care workers providing patient care,
- 11,000 individuals working in health care settings,
- 20,000 educators, and
- 100,000 working in the food supply chain.
DACA recipients and their households also play a critical role in local economies. Their spending power is estimated to be $25.3 billion collectively. They own 68,000 homes. They are also paying $2.5 billion as rent and $760 million as mortgage per annum.
What will happen to the “dreamers” if DACA is rescinded?
If DACA is rescinded, the “dreamers” will lose their work permits and become vulnerable to deportation. They will also no longer have access to many educational and employment opportunities. The US economy would also suffer a significant loss.
According to the CAP analysis, deporting all DACA recipients would result in a $433.4 billion reduction in the US gross domestic product (GDP) over the next 10 years. The Social Security and Medicare programs would also take a hit of $24.6 billion over the same period.
Many DACA recipients only know the US as their home. They have spent most of their lives here and consider themselves Americans. Losing DACA would mean losing their livelihoods, families, and communities. It would uproot their lives and force them to leave the only country they know as home.
What can you do to help?
Do you want to help? There are a few things you can do:
- If you know someone who is a DACA recipient, offer them support and resources.
- If you are a DACA recipient, stay informed and updated on the latest developments.
- Make your voice heard by contacting your elected officials and urging them to protect DACA recipients.
- Support organizations working to protect the rights of immigrants.
- Support the #DefendDACA movement on social media.