Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as minors, also known as Dreamers, are waiting for lawmakers to come to a compromise. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA policy grants them amnesty in the U.S. and eligibility to work, and unless congress can revise the policy with changes that satisfy President Trump, their lives will be uprooted.
DACA recipients are referred to as “Dreamers” after the bipartisan act “Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (Dream) Act.” It was introduced in 2001 and has repeatedly failed to pass. DACA was the compromise the Obama Administration came to. Lawmakers from both parties continue to seek an agreement that will maintain dreamers’ legal working status to avoid the huge disaster that awaits if a sustainable solution is not soon found.
What’s at Stake
The Obama-era policy that provided amnesty to the 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants and a chance for them to live and work in the U.S. is at stake. This policy, created in 2013, provided DACA recipients with some stability and an opportunity to become part of the American workforce, which is a privilege Dreamers do not take for granted.
According to Pew Research, two-thirds of DACA recipients are under 25 years old and 53 percent are women. Ending the DACA program has the potential to drastically change the course of the lives of many teenagers and young adults who are pursuing educations and careers in the US and will send them back somewhere that the younger of these groups have never lived.
What May Change
The fate of DACA recipients is unclear. The process for legal citizenship in the U.S. is lengthy, expensive and uncertain to bear fruit. At this time, DACA recipients are ineligible for legal residency status, due to their initial unlawful entry to the U.S., a regulation often criticized due to largely impacting those who did not have a choice in entering as children, as well as for targeting an underprivileged population.
While the DACA policy does not grant legal resident status, up until fall of last year, an application, background screening and $495 fee granted recipients eligibility to work in the U.S. Come March, the stability this policy provided may no longer exist. There are many dreamers who, like individuals who are eligible for nonimmigrant visas, are excellent students and exemplary citizens. However nonimmigrant visas are selective and tend to go towards those who are already educated and potential entrepreneurs.
Consequences of DACA Termination
Studies of the economic consequences to ceasing DACA imply billions of dollars lost in each state, due to significant drops in GDP. As DACA recipients legally work in the U.S., they also pay their share of taxes. Beginning in March, thousands of dreamers will lose their legal working status, which will result in significant economic changes in places like the greater LA area, which is home to the largest percentage of dreamers in the country.
As one of Trump’s key points during his election was to end illegal immigration by building a wall, he has rejected bipartisan compromises by lawmakers that do not include funding for a border wall or restrictions on legal immigration that meet his expectations. Politicians and their political operatives are expected to fulfil the promises they made during their campaigns, and as the proposed wall was a cornerstone of the Trump campaign, the president is now holding the treasured DACA policy hostage for legislation that enforces these restrictions.
There’s a lot at stake in these polarized times and it’s important to know how policy changes will affect Dreamers and the economy to understand the implications of the proposed legislation. Changes are imminent and the consequences for not finding a reasonable solution are severe for all parties involved. As we wait for a new policy, the future of over 700,000 dreams hangs in the balance.
Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.