Julie Dostal '19
DACA, the acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a program created by the Obama administration in 2012. The immigration policy allows young people unwittingly brought across the border without documentation by others to receive a temporary reprieve from deportation and permission to work, study, and obtain a driver’s license. Individuals could only receive protections from DACA after meeting a series of requirements. Applicants need to have been younger than 31 years of age at the date of program implementation. Applicants must prove they have lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007 and that they had arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16. Further, applicants must show they have clean criminal records; they must not have been convicted of a felony, certain significant misdemeanors (including a single DUI), or three or more misdemeanors of any kind.1 Beneficiaries of the program must also all be enrolled or have completed high school, a GED program, or college, or serve in the military. These administrative requirements help to narrow eligible recipients to individuals most likely to further the declared purpose of the program, which was to protect from deportation eligible immigrant youths who came to the United States when they were children. A DACA beneficiary’s status was renewable every two years based on information supplied and recorded by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This same information may now be used by the United States Justice Department to deport unprotected recipients beginning in 2018.
Following its implementation, DACA provided relief from deportation and granted work permits to unauthorized immigrants than any other immigration policy since the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act.2 There are approximately 800,000 DACA recipients now living in the U.S.3 Since 2015, the vast majority (81.3%) of DACA applications have been renewals. Most DACA beneficiaries arrived from Mexico (78.5), El Salvador (3.6%), Guatemala (2.5%), and Honduras (2.3%). They live primarily in California, Texas, and Illinois. The average recipient of DACA protections is 22 years old and employed. The majority are students and 17% are pursuing advanced degrees.4
After the implementation of DACA in 2012, academics began to monitor its effects. Many found the immigration policy directly translated into positive outputs in the education and employment sectors. Research conducted by Roberto Gonzales, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, focused on the factors that promote and impede educational progress for immigrants and Latino students. Gonzales noted that DACA has provided a “tremendous boost” to its recipients, helping them contribute to their families, communities, and the U.S. economy.5 DACA had large effects on eligible individuals’ labor market outcomes, and there is evidence that suggests it altered recipients’ education decisions. Many respondents to Gonzales’ research study reported that DACA led them to enroll in community college or in job-training programs sponsored by community based organizations. Education has been and remains a key barrier for undocumented immigrant children, with 40% failing to complete high school.6
DACA helped recipients find jobs. “69% of respondents reported moving to a job with better pay.”7 Within two years of implementation, DACA moved 50,000 to 75,000 unauthorized immigrants into employment.8 Generally, research indicates that DACA benefited labor market outcomes and increased the likelihood of employment for beneficiaries. The positive economic outcomes for beneficiaries of DACA were the same outcomes placed under scrutiny when the Justice Department commented on its concerns with the program. Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that the program had “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”9
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has scheduled a six-month phase-out for the program. “The DHS timeline ensures that a new group of beneficiaries will lose their status and accompanying benefits every day from March 2018 through early 2020.”10 Therefore, the consequences of the DACA repeal will continue uninterrupted for the next two years, damaging the lives of hundreds of thousands of recipients and the American economy. DHS has already outlined a schedule for the loss of DACA protections. Starting September 6, 2017, DHS will not accept new DACA applications. Current beneficiaries whose status expires between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 must apply for renewal by October 5, 2017. Individuals who renew their status by October 5th will keep their DACA protections for two years. The unluckiest of DACA recipients will lose their protections on March 6, 2018. The final group of DACA-protected immigrants will be stripped of their status in January or February of 2020.
The ramifications of repealing DACA will be swift and severe for its recipients. Former beneficiaries will lose their work permits. In several states, beneficiaries will lose their in-state college tuition.11 Others will be expelled from higher education altogether, where a handful of states lifted the bar on undocumented immigrants attending public universities for DACA beneficiaries. Texas has already declared it will cancel driver’s licenses of DACA recipients, and more states are likely to follow.12 DACA beneficiaries serving in the U.S. Armed Forces will also lose their protected status and may be discharged from the military.
Perhaps the most concerning element of the DACA repeal is that the same information that immigrants voluntarily submitted by unauthorized immigrants seeking to benefit from a government-offered immigration policy could now be given to immigration authorities for the purpose of their deportation. However, the future of DACA is uncertain. President Donald Trump urged Congress to pass a replacement piece of legislation to take the place of DACA. President Trump specifically called on Congress via Twitter to “legalize DACA.” The words of the President seem to imply he would be willing to sign into law a legislative equivalent of the DACA executive order. For the moment, the fates of 800,000 individuals raised in the U.S. remain uncertain. A large majority of the American people agree DACA beneficiaries should continue to receive legal protection. The fate of DACA beneficiaries is now in Congress’ hands.
1 Stern, Mark J. “The Slow Death of DACA Will Be a Rolling Catastrophe that Trump Can’t Escape,” http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/09/06/rolling_daca_cancellations_will_dog_the_trump_administration.html Slate, 09.2017.
2 Baker, S. “Effect of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act on Crime,” Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 412 (2014).
3 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/Reports%20and%20Studies/Immigration%20Forms%20Data/All%20Form%20Types/DACA/daca_performancedata_fy2017_qtr2.pdf
4 Wong, Tom K., “Results of Tom K. Wong, National Immigration Law Center, and Center for American Progress National Survey,” (Washington: National Immigration Law Center and Center for American Progress, June 2015), https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/DACA-Wong_NILC_CAP-Codebook-PDF.pdf.
5 Stern, “The Slow Death of DACA…,” Slate, 09.2017.
7 Wong, Tom K., “Results of Tom K. Wong, National Immigration Law Center, and Center for American Progress National Survey,”
8 Pope, Nolan G., “The Effects of DACAmentation: The Impact of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on Unauthorized Immigrants” 2014
9 Shear, Michael D. and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “Trumps Moves to End DACA and Calls on Congress to Act,” New York Times, 09.2017.
11 Stern, “The Slow Death of DACA…,” Slate, 09.2017.