On Sept. 5, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he is rescinding the Executive Order which granted Deferred Action to Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
About the DACA Program
The DACA program was announced June 15, 2012, by President Obama. At the time, Congress was struggling to agree on comprehensive immigration reform. As a result, to ease some of the burdens on undocumented children in the United States, Obama chose to issue an Executive Order as a temporary solution. In order to be eligible, individuals had to prove the following:
- That they were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- That they had entered the U.S. before age 16;
- That they had entered the U.S. before June 15, 2007, and continuously resided in the U.S. since that time;
- That they had completed high school or a GED program, or were in the process of doing so;
- That they have never been convicted of any felonies or “significant misdemeanors” (which included a DUI in most states), or more than two misdemeanor offenses of any kind
Applicants had to be at least 15 years old in order to apply.
Those who were granted DACA status would be allowed to remain in the United States for two years during which time any adverse action against them would be “deferred.” That is, they would not be at risk of being placed in removal proceedings. Their status could be renewed for an additional two years for as long as the program existed. DACA status also allowed beneficiaries to obtain work authorization and driver’s licenses.
What it did not do, however, was provide a path to citizenship. DACA was not a law with long-term implications. It was instituted only as a short-term solution while Congress figured out something more comprehensive and permanent. But as we know, they never did.
For the past five years, DACA remained in the hands of the executive branch while Congress failed to take any action on immigration. The continuation of the program allowed beneficiaries to keep their status and continue living and working in the United States, but it also left them vulnerable to the whims of the executive branch.
On Sept. 5, the new Administration announced that it is rescinding the Executive Order which authorized DACA, and that the program would be fully shut down March 5, 2018.
No More First-time Applications
In order to apply for DACA, a child needed to be at least 15 years old. Thus, for those who were waiting for their 15th birthday to apply, that chance will never come, as no more first-time applications will be accepted.
For those who already have DACA, a grace period is being allowed for them to seek renewal one final time, but only if their current status expires before March 5, 2018. For those who have DACA status that is valid past March 5, 2018, they will not be permitted to renew their status.
And once that status expires, whenever it may be, they revert back to “undocumented.” They will no longer be authorized to work, or renew their driver’s licenses, and will be at increased risk of being placed in removal proceedings, because, unlike before, the Department of Homeland Security now has their exact whereabouts.
Tremendous Economic Losses
While this loss does have significant humanitarian implications, it will also result in tremendous economic losses as well as weaken national security – two things the administration claims to support.
According to data from the Pew Research Center, nearly 800,000 undocumented children had received DACA status during its tenure. Nearly 80 percent of them are employed. This translates into greater economic growth and increases in tax revenue (yes, DACA beneficiaries and the vast majority of all undocumented people in the United States do pay taxes). Removing DACA with no replacement means removing more than 600,000 people from the workforce.
Research from the Cato Institute suggests that rescinding the DACA program could reduce our economic growth by about $280 billion, and cost us more than $460 billion in production over the next 10 years. To make matters worse, the administration has also threatened to place DACA recipients in removal proceedings in the hopes of deporting them. This is an additional cost of $7.5 billion of taxpayer money. In other words, American taxpayers would be paying to actively make their economy worse for the next 10 years (if not longer).
In terms of national security, all DACA applicants must pass a background check in order to even be granted DACA status. So anyone with a conviction for a felony offense or a serious misdemeanor wouldn’t even qualify.
According to numerous research organizations, there is no evidence to suggest that DACA beneficiaries commit crimes at a higher rate that U.S. citizens. In fact, the data show that they are less likely to commit crimes. DACA beneficiaries know what is at stake if they make even one small mistake, and most are vigilant about being good, contributing members of society. Moreover, they have felt more comfortable reporting crimes to local authorities if and when they have been victims or witnessed crimes. The protection of DACA has allowed them to do that.
Without the protection of DACA, it is extremely likely that these individuals will go back into the shadows out of fear that they will be targeted for deportation. While it is unlikely that they will suddenly begin committing violent crimes, undocumented individuals will be less likely to report crimes in the community out of fear of being deported, making all of us as a community less safe.
Nevertheless, all hope is not entirely lost. Terminating the DACA program is certainly unfortunate in that it will leave 800,000 people at risk of being deported, cause tremendous economic losses to the United States and even weaken our national security. Yet it is an opportunity.
It is an opportunity for Congress to finally come together to address the ills of our current immigration system. After decades of inaction, the time has come to take action. Whether that action will be constructive or destructive, only time will tell. However, we can only hope that Congress finds the strength to allow us to be the great nation that we keep telling ourselves we are.