Most Americans either hadn’t heard of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, or knew little about it until just recently. An initiative formed under President Obama in 2012, DACA created a brighter future for the children of illegal immigrants. In short, many undocumented immigrants that came to the United States as small children were eligible for temporary respite from deportation.
Those involved in the program, often called “Dreamers,” receive reassurance that they won’t be sent to country that many can’t remember living in or haven’t seen in, in some cases, decades. However, Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General for the Trump administration, announced recently the plan to rescind DACA. Outside of the moral implication of promising to deport young people that have spent the majority of their lives in America, there are other ways people will be harmed – and not just for those involved in the program.
We compiled a list of DACA facts that you need to know, including how eliminating the program could negatively effect the economy.
An estimated $460 billion in revenue from DACA
There are stipulations involved with being a part of the DACA program. Dreamers pay state and federal taxes, despite not being eligible for many of the programs those tax dollars pay for. As an example, Dreamers aren’t able to enroll for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and they can’t receive Medicaid. They also can’t receive financial aid from the state or federal government or receive unemployment. Some people might say otherwise, but these myths have been debunked.
According to American Progress, the amount of gross annual GDP that many individual states would lose by eliminating the progress would be outrageous. Just as an example, the number for California is over $11.6 million. For Texas, that total is roughly $6.3 million. If you add the total losses for all 50 states, you’re looking at roughly $460 billion over a decade.
Removing nearly 800,000 workers from the American economy will certainly have a negative effect. Skeptics will argue that doing so merely opens jobs and opportunities to those that were born in the United States, but the highest portion of unemployed American workers have specific skills and low education. The notion that unemployed Americans can simply move into jobs held by Dreamers — or asking them to open the businesses that will close — is entirely unrealistic.
Dreamers are more likely to be employed
Again according to American Progress, immigrants involved in DACA are more likely to be employed than ones that aren’t. That makes sense, of course, but the program also enables Dreamers to go on to perform military service in the United States or even open businesses of their own, which helps the economy and job creation.
Since it was first announced on June 15, 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals(DACA) policy has provided temporary relief from deportation as well as work authorization to approximately 800,000 undocumented young people across the country. As research has consistently shown, DACA has not only improved the lives of undocumented young people and their families but has also positively affected the economy more generally, which benefits all Americans.
Of those participating in a survey, 56% said they moved to a job with better working conditions. Five percent started their own business, which creates jobs for Americans and fellow Dreamers. Not to mention, it serves a purpose in the community. According to one respondent:
I started a bookkeeping business which gives me the opportunity to help our Hispanic community be in compliance with tax law […] If DACA ended, I will not be able to keep my small business and help my community.
DACA means more education and higher wages
Data shows that 91% of enrollees are currently attending school. If you isolate to just those that responded that are 25 years of age or older, that number jumps up to 93%. There is no debating the facts of education; higher education means higher wages in America.
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.”
The average hourly wage of respondents increased by 69 percent since receiving DACA, rising from $10.29 per hour to $17.46 per hour. Among respondents 25 years and older, the average hourly wage increased by 84 percent since receiving DACA.
The data also show that respondents’ average annual earnings come out to $36,232, and their median annual earnings total $32,000. Among respondents 25 years and older, the figures are $41,621 and $37,595, respectively.
Higher wages don’t just help individuals. The community effect of higher wages in specific areas is well-known, and it’s seen in more than just the amount of extra tax dollars heading to state and local government. More money in the pocket of the individual means more spending at local businesses. It means more businesses being opened and more cars or homes being purchased. Nearly 65% of respondents in the survey reported being able to afford their first car since enrolling in DACA.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has largely misled the public on DACA
When Sessions announced on Sept. 5, 2017, that the Trump administration intended to end DACA, he did so with a speech that often made misleading claims or stated facts without proper context. Politi-Fact went over several of those claims, but here are just a few.
Claim: DACA ‘essentially provided a legal status for recipients’
“Current law does not grant any legal status for the class of individuals who are current recipients of DACA,” the Department of Homeland Security said Sept. 5 in information posted after the administration’s decision to rescind the program.
Claim: DACA, ‘among other things, contributed to a surge of minors at the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences.’
While there is evidence that such mistaken ideas did exist, the data shows that the upticks at the southern border were already under way by the time DACA was announced, and that the trend line didn’t change significantly after the announcement. So the effect, if there was any at all, would have been too small to measure.
Claim: DACA granted recipients ‘participation in the Social Security program’
This statement lacks significant context. Most DACA recipients, because of their young age, would work for years before becoming eligible for Social Security. And as we’ve noted before, having DACA alone does not make recipients eligible for Social Security or most other federal benefits.
But immigrants who have DACA are also eligible for work permits — therefore they are not barred from federal programs associated with working in the United States, such as Social Security and Medicare, where a portion of income goes toward funding the benefits.
DACA is heavily supported among American voters
Despite the rhetoric around DACA among those in the Trump administration, a majority of Americans support DACA recipients staying in the country. A poll from Morning Consult showed that 80% of voters were pro-DACA recipients staying, 75% of Trump voters were on board, and 56% said they should be allowed to become citizens if they meet certain requirements. Only 14% said they should be forced to leave the United States.
This is not the only issue that the Trump administration has been willing to take on despite their position being unpopular among Americans. Conservative website The Hill reported in August of 2017 that a majority of Americans were in support of Obamacare, while back in July the same website reported that just 13% of Americans supported the Republican Obamacare repeal plan.
Eliminating DACA puts people (and families) at risk
Normally, undocumented immigrants live and work in America just as the title says; undocumented. The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), more or less, is unaware of specifically where they are and how to find them. Even if they do, proving that a person is undocumented and deporting them can be a long and difficult process. But what if that person already declared themselves to be undocumented and trusted the United States with their information?
That is what DACA recipients do. And now, there is a very real fear that the country they have lived in for the majority of their lives might use that information to hunt them down and send them away. According to Business Insider, because of their participation in the program designed to legitimize their residency, Dreamers are at a major disadvantage.
DACA invited people who were in the shadows to come forth, get biometrics taken, get put in the system, get a Social Security number, get a job, take out a loan, open a bank account, get a credit card,” Jafri told Business Insider.
They’re wondering, ‘Now that I’m no longer protected, can ICE now come and find me? Because ICE now knows where I live, where I work’ … It’s really nerve-wracking for these people.
ICE now has everything they need to track down and deport nearly 800,000 people, assuming DACA comes to an end.
There is still hope
Despite all of this, there are plenty of Americans looking to help. With Dreamers is a website where community leaders at all levels can add their signature to show support of DACA, and so far it has over 1,000 names from Governors, state leaders, cities, counties, civic leaders, and religious leaders. Below is part of their statement:
We, the undersigned governors, statewide constitutional officers, mayors, state legislators, local elected officials, law enforcement professionals, and faith and civic leaders are united in declaring that we are with Dreamers and DACA recipients. We recognize their enormous role in our communities and families and their contributions to our schools, workplaces, and shared prosperity as a nation…
As the leaders of communities across the country—individuals and institutions that have seen these young people grow up in our communities—we recognize how they have enriched and strengthened our cities, states, schools, businesses, congregations, and families. We believe it is a moral imperative that the administration and the country know we are with them. We also join together to send our assurances to Dreamers: we see you, we value you, and we are ready to defend you.
There have been rallies, protests, and debates over DACA. As Americans learn more and more about what the program does and how it effects so many young people, the support only grows. In the coming weeks and months, we can expect that a strong movement will end in legislation that helps keep these people safe, providing stability for communities and local economies across the United States.