Shattered Dreams of a Generation of Legal Workers
Today, President Trump announced an end to the Obama-era legislation known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA. Groups on both sides of the issue now prepare for the imminent legal battles ahead.
The DACA program has allowed over 800,000 person who arrived in the U.S. undocumented as children to live in work in the U.S. without fear of deportation.
For Dreamers, America is the only home they have ever known. The average Dreamer is 26 years old and arrived in America at age 6. 100% do not have a criminal record as is required to participate in the program. Over 91% of Dreamers are employed.
Several states including Texas threatened to sue the federal government if DACA was not suspended. In the weeks leading up to the announcement, legislators offered to negotiate wagering permanent residency in exchange for the passing of the RAISE Act which will cut legal immigration by half in the next 10 years.
Another proposal has been to allow Dreamers to stay if a $1.6 billion down payment is made by the federal government, with taxpayer money, on a boarder wall with Mexico – one of Candidate Trump’s key campaign promises.
For now, the Department of Homeland Security will stop accepting applications for DACA. Persons already working through the program can continue to work until their permit expires. Those whose permits expire by March 5, 2018, should file for a two-year renewal before October 5th of this year.
DHS will no longer issue advanced parole notices which allow DACA recipients to travel outside the country and reenter. Senior representatives for DHS said that DACA recipients will not be high priority for deportation once their work permits expire. They will, however, risk being summoned to immigration court if they encounter federal immigration officers. DHS will not be sharing personal information about DACA recipients for deportation purposes.
There are economic consequences for the recension of DACA. In the largest study of DACA recipients conducted by scholars from UC, San Diego, United We Dream, and the National Immigration Law Center, it was found that after receiving DACA, 69 percent of respondents reported moving to a job with better pay; 54 percent moved to a job that “better fits my education and training”; 54 percent moved to a job that “better fits my long-term career goals”; and 56 percent moved to a job with better working conditions.
Average wages rose from $10.29 per hour to $17.46 per hour. DACA recipients also have purchasing power with over two-thirds having purchased their first car.
On a larger scale, 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies employ DACA recipients. The collective revenue of these companies is $2.8 trillion annually.
A Possible Lifeline
There may be hope for Dreamers in congressional legislation akin to the 2001, bipartisan supported DREAM Act. This bill was introduced by Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Dick Durbin of Illinois. Beneficiaries of the DREAM Act would be required to meet the following:
- Not have entered the United States on a non-immigrant visa
- Have proof of having arrived in the United States before age 16
- Have proof of residence in the United States for at least five consecutive years since their date of arrival
- If male, have registered with the Selective Service
- Be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of bill enactment
- Have graduated from an American high school, obtained a GED, or been admitted to an institution of higher education
- Be of good moral character
The bill would have provided conditional residency or permanent residency to persons who met certain additional criteria. If senators who originally backed this bill will commit themselves to reintroducing it and pushing it through congress, this could have lifesaving results for Dreamers whose future now seems so uncertain.
Orrin Hatch said of the DREAM Act in 2010, “While I do not advocate granting unchecked amnesty to illegal immigrants, I am, however, in favor of providing children-children who did not make the decision to enter the United States illegally-the opportunity to earn the privilege of remaining here legally.”
If DACA permits begin to expire next year, more than 1,000 immigrants will lose their work permits each day. If DACA recipients are be deported, hundreds of thousands of families will be torn apart with people shipped off to countries they haven’t seen since they were very small children. Places where they are only vaguely or not at all familiar with the language and culture.
Former President Obama has spoken out on behalf of Dreamers calling President Trumps move a “political decision” to a “moral question”. Obama wrote,
“This is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be.”