By Lauren Menjivar, VI Form
DACA’s Uncertain Future
On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on behalf of the Trump Administration that it would rescind DACA after ten state attorneys general threatened to sue the administration if it didn’t end the program. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is a program that allows DREAMers (Development, Relief, Education for Alien Minors) to avoid deportation for two years and make them eligible for a work permit. By ending DACA, 800,000 recipients are at a loss in their ability to work and live in the U.S., and they risk deportation. As a result, a debate on DACA has ensued on its value in American society after five years since the Obama Administration began the program.
Despite a small minority of Americans being against DACA, most Americans see it as a great loss and feel it is cruel to send the young people to a country they are not familiar with. The program has improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrants over the last five years, but it has also contributed to the American economy in taxes and the workforce, and without them, it would be a loss for the country. Overall, DACA recipients add value to this country and they embody much of what it means to be American.
Many Americans believe that any immigrant can apply for DACA, but in reality, it is not a program that all undocumented immigrants can qualify for. To apply for DACA (see this infographic), one must have come to the U.S. before turning sixteen and have lived continuously in the U.S. since June 15, 2007. In addition, they must be attending school, have a high school diploma, or are veterans. If their applications are accepted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DACA recipients can then work legally in jobs and are protected from deportation for two years. After those two years are up, they must renew their applications. These strict requirements mean that only 1.6 million undocumented immigrants are eligible to apply for the program. Once they are accepted into DACA, the recipients can apply for credit cards, buys homes and cars, and get a driver’s license. They can also pursue more educational opportunities, work in better and high-paying jobs, and acquire a Social Security number to pay taxes. Although there are benefits for DACA recipients, there are certain things that they cannot receive. They cannot get the Affordable Care Act, federal financial aid, Medicaid, food stamps, and welfare. They also cannot collect benefits from Social Security. Despite people believing that the DACA recipients take away benefits from Americans, the truth is they contribute a lot to taxes and the economy, but with federally-funded programs, they receive nothing.
With DACA, the U.S. economy has benefited a great amount from these recipients. When they buy houses and cars, the recipients are increasing revenue in states and local cities. DACA recipients also pay taxes that go to our healthcare and social security. Another contribution that CNN reported on is that five percent of the DACA recipients have started businesses which created jobs for Americans living in the U.S. What makes DREAMers essential to the nation is that they are usually more highly-skilled than other undocumented immigrants. American schools have educated them for most of their children and many recipients work as doctors, teachers, lawyers and in other professional roles. Alternatively, if the U.S. government were to deport the DREAMers, it would cost about $60 billion to do so, which is compounds the loss for the country. Ending DACA means the U.S. would lose 800,000 valuable workers and, over ten years, the economy would lose $24.6 billion in tax contribution including $19.9 billion in Social Security and $4.6 billion in Medicare contributions.
Some Americans have a negative view of unauthorized immigrants and usually, those misconceptions blend in with what they think about DREAMers. Some Americans claim that DACA encourages illegal immigration. However, there is only a small group of undocumented immigrants who can apply for DACA, and any child who arrives in the U.S. after June 15, 2007, is not eligible. In addition, immigrants do not flee to the U.S. because of DACA, but due to factors such as uncontrollable growth of violence, drug culture, as well as other push factors like high quality public education that motivate them to come to the U.S. Another misconception of DACA is that the recipients get to attend college for free. DACA recipients must pay for college, and although they do not qualify for federal aid, there are certain states in the U.S. that allow them to receive state and college financial aid. The universities and the state governments make the final decision on what recipients are eligible for, but the DACA program and the federal government have no influence over the states.
Finally, some critics believe that the program grants amnesty to the recipients. While it is difficult to say if it does or does not grant amnesty, recipients are safe from deportation for two years. They must renew their applications after that period, and there are times when their applications are not accepted because they have committed a crime or possibly for other circumstances. The program also does not provide legal status because the recipients are still undocumented. The USCIS specifically states that “Deferred action does not confer lawful status upon the individual.” There are more misunderstandings that Americans have of DACA, but these are ones that have been debunked by credible sources.
The battle over DACA continues and its future remains uncertain. Congress is still deciding the next step for DACA and the recipients are fighting to keep the program and to stay in the country. People in the U.S. still don’t know what DACA is, but I hope that by reading this article, you determine their value in the society as I have by doing this research.
Lauren Menjivar is a VI Form boarding student from South Bound Brook, NJ. She enjoys reading books, watching Korean shows and listening to music.
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