Deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) is a major immigration policy that was instituted by the Obama administration in June 2012 majorly to curb the deportation of young immigrants who have spent the larger parts of their lives in the United States. DACA was the culmination of a long and often disappointing political process aimed at finding a practical solution to the growing number of undocumented illegal immigration.
DACA had been preceded by attempts on the legislative action through the DREAM Act bill that was twice filibustered in the U.S Senate necessitating Obama to circumvent Congress altogether and sign DACA as a stop-gap solution before permanent more comprehensive legislation could be adopted by Congress.
DACA provided illegal immigrants who had gotten into the country as minors and met a certain set of requirements that will be discussed in this essay later, to live lawfully, study and work, without the threat of deportation for a renewable period of two years. The renewability of their status hinges on good behavior and other positive attributes that contribute to social cohesion.
Former president Barrack Obama moved to expand the program in November 2014 and faced very stiff opposition particularly from Republican governors. Texas and 25 other states sued the federal government for this and ultimately managed to effectively block the expansion of the program.
The current Trump administration, in line with their promise to fix immigration, rescinded the policy in September 2017 but the rescission is yet to permanently enforced. A grace period of six months was given for Congress to deliberate and decide on the fate of the population that was eligible for the program.
A conscientious and touchy issue has always plagued the implementation of immigration law. Minors who do ask for it or comprehend its significance are smuggled into the country where they are brought up and schooled only to learn later that they are illegally in the country. These are people who have known no other country and would therefore not easily integrate if deported. Before the signing of DACA by Obama, the DREAM act had been their most plausible potential recourse. The DREAM Act bill, when tabled in the Senate in 2007, was designed to offer them permanent residency, as normal citizens but it did not pass in the Senate due to a bipartisan filibuster. The bill was reintroduced to Congress twice but failed to pass both times mainly due to intervention from the Republican side. In the second instance in 2013, a very comprehensive immigration law was introduced to Congress allowing illegal immigrants all of the rights bestowed on the natural citizenry. The bill was however not even brought up for a vote in the house after going through the Senate in unclear circumstances. The New York Times reported that it was this frustration that drove the Obama administration to seek alternative avenues of addressing the matter, as he often said he would if elected president (Alcindor. 2017). It is out of the association with this bill that the beneficiaries of the DACA program are christened dreamers.
Requirements before an applicant is eligible
DACA was designed to allow immigrants who could positively contribute to the American economy to register while at the same time sidelining those who could potentially contribute to social vices. Its structure was also meant to push young immigrants into education or the military so that they could become of use to society within their stay in America. The applicants of DACA paid a $495 fee with their application and must have met the following requirements to be eligible
1. The applicant must have entered the U.S before their 16th birthday.
2. The applicant must have lived in the united states continuously without leaving the country for long periods since June 15th, 2007
3. The applicant must not have had legal status when the signing of DACA was taking effect in June 2012.
4. The applicant must have been born on or after 16th June 1981
5. The applicant must be within the borders of the United States when making their application.
6. The applicant must not have been convicted of any felony or serious misdemeanors and not a threat to national security.
7. The applicants must be enrolled in school or have completed high school or honorably discharged from the military.
In a report released by the migration policy institute two months after DACA’s signing estimated that about 1.76 million immigrants would have been eligible for the program at that time. The number that has however applied since was about half of their estimated figure.
Effect of DACA on the U.S
In this part, we shall highlight the impact of this policy on various issues that have been discussed widely and wildly speculated on. We shall however not base our opinion on the speculation but on facts and expert opinion that is reliable.
Effect on the economy
Attorney general Jeff Sessions made it abundantly clear that inclusion of immigrants into the formal employment sector would greatly jeopardize the chances of U.S citizens to getting jobs and would, therefore, deny them a decent shot at making a living hence negatively affecting the opinion. This postulation made enough sense to rally a good number of Republican elected officials to his side and promise to move with speed to remove the policy once they got into power.
This effect has however not proven true. In fact, contrary to Sessions’ claims many economists and indeed the Journal of public economics published a research article in 2016 that highlighted more productivity in the American economy with increased workforce from about 60,000 illegal immigrants who had been employed as a result of DACA. It also cited a rise in the standard of living that the immigrants would now be able to have and an overall reduction in the poverty level of Americans in general (Pope, Nolan G. 2016).
It further misspelt the unfounded claims that had been made by Sessions’ showing that no U.S citizens had lost their jobs to cheaper immigrants due to the effect of DACA. Giovanni Peri, an economist in the University of California, stated in that the U.S economy is close to full employment in 2017 and therefore relieving it of the workforce that comes with DACA would probably result in a undesirable economic and fiscal eventualities and in the long run hurt the rate growth of the American economy.
The states whose economies have been most significantly impacted are the states of California, Texas, New York, Illinois, Florida, and Arizona in that order. This Is because they are six states where most applicants of DACA who are eligible are registered and have entered the workforce. California, in particular, has seen slightly under half a million applicants get registered and more than half of these applicants renewed their status in 2014 when the U.S citizenship and immigration service released the process of renewing their status in June 2014.
As a general statement, it is, therefore, reasonable to say that DACA has had a positive impact on the economy and its rescission by the government may have a reverse effect.
Effect on crime rates and terrorism
By the nature of its biased eligibility design, DACA singles out any immigrant that may be of questionable character and therefore effectively deter them from crime as even actively registered people would have to maintain good behavior to be eligible for renewal after the two-year period is over. Factcheck.org highlighted that there is no evidential basis where immigrants have been shown to be more prone to committing crimes than United States citizens (factcheck.org)
There has also not been any evidence of increased drug use, possession or trafficking, as claimed by some politicians, by immigrants of Mexican or South American origin in comparison with their native counterparts.
It would therefore be misinformed to claim that illegal immigrants registered through DACA contribute to the rise of crime or drug use in the United States.
Effect on politics
The issue of Immigration has been and still is a very debatable political issue and has been used time and time again by prospective office holders as a show of patriotism or heartiness to get leverage. President Donald J Trump in his campaigns frequently said that he would rescind the policy on his first day in office. This promise did however not come to pass as the complexities and realities of policymaking often require more than a days work to achieve meaningful results.
Texas v United States where Texas enjoined with 25 other states were suing the federal government for attempting to expand the program in the U.S District Court of southern Texas ended up in the Supreme Court where an injunction on the expansion issued by the lower court was upheld made it very clear that a big part of the country is still very jittery with the policy and laid bare the need for the current administration to firmly and decisively lay down legislation that will put the matter to rest.
After reading the literature and understanding the need for policy that addresses this matter, I am inclined to agree with most of the quoted information earlier on that DACA was an important policy that gave immigrants the necessary legal status to exist, study and work freely in the United States without necessarily infringing on the rights or privileges that U.S citizens enjoy. DACA had an overall positive impact on the economy and is only a threat to politicians who probably do not fully understand the plight of these immigrants.
It, therefore, warrants that as Congress takes time to deliberate on this matter within the six-month grace period that was provided, it should also factor in the young people who came in as immigrants and have known no other country. They may not be U.S citizens by birth but their documented presence in the country does make the country better in almost every way.
Alcindor, Yamiche; Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (September 5, 2017). “After 16 Futile Years, Congress Will Try Again to Legalize ‘Dreamers’”. The New York Times.
Fact Check: Are DACA Recipients Stealing Jobs Away From Other Americans?”.
Pope, Nolan G. (2016). “The effects of DACAmentation: The impact of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on illegal immigrants”. Journal of Public Economics.