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Get the Facts about DACA and What Ending it Might Mean

On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, fulfilling one of President Trump’s campaign promises, announced the end of an Obama-era immigration program known as DACA. Here are the facts about DACA and what ending it would mean.

What is DACA?

DACA (which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was implemented under the Obama administration on June 15, 2012 to allow young people brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents to get a temporary reprieve from deportation and receive permission to work, study, and obtain a driver’s license. Applicants had to be younger than 31 years old when the program began, had to prove that they had lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007, and had arrived in the country before the age of 16. Those signing up also had to show they had clean criminal records and were enrolled in high school or college or serving in the military. Every two years, their status was renewable; according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, initial acceptances into the program have lagged behind permit renewals in the past few years. As of Tuesday, applications were no longer being accepted.

At the time DACA was formed, Conservatives accused Obama of overstepping his authority, but they brought no legal challenge. Overall, however, Obama’s executive action had strong public support according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey, which found that 63 percent of those polled approved of the program. A more recent poll conducted by NBC News and the website Survey Monkey found that nearly two-thirds of Americans favor allowing DREAMers to stay in the country.

Who are “DREAMers”?

Nearly 800,000 DACA recipients, also known as DREAMers, have received approval to go to school and work legally. According to a Pew Research Study and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, most DACA recipients are young; in 2014, the largest amount were individuals younger than 19.

They are also overwhelmingly from Mexico, with a smaller percentage from Central American and South American countries.

While data shows DACA recipients live in every state, the vast majority live in California or Texas.

How does ending DACA affect the economy?

One of the main arguments against DACA by Conservatives is that the beneficiaries end up denying jobs to Americans. Certainly there is some evidence that high-skilled immigrants (i.e. those with H-1B visas) help pull wages down. There are also certain cases where American workers have lost jobs to H-1B recipients. In fact, according to a University of Chicago survey of economists in 2013, while a plurality of economists agreed that having more low-skilled foreign workers would benefit the economy as a whole, it would be bad for low-skilled workers who are already here. This is not a clear issue at all; on both questions, more than a quarter of economists were “uncertain.”

That being said, it seems overall there would be a hit to the economy. In another survey by the University of Chicago in the same year, two-thirds of economists disagreed with the premise that “if the U.S. significantly lowers the number of H-1B visas now, employment for American workers will rise materially over the next four years.” In fact, none of the economists surveyed agreed; the rest had no opinion or chose not to answer. In a statement to NPR, Giovanni Peri, professor of Economics at the University of California, Davis, highlighted another issue – that of the “lump labour fallacy.” A term coined by economists, it is the assumption that there is a fixed amount of work available; in this case, the idea that there are several hundred thousand DACA workers taking work away from several hundred thousand other people. “The simple point — which is true for them but even more for them and all immigrants — if they were not there, the American economy would be 800 [thousand] young people smaller,” Peri said. “And the skills and productivity that they brought to the economy wouldn’t be here.”

Here is a closer look at one industry that would be severely impacted by the loss of immigrants: health care. According to the New York Times, surveys of DACA beneficiaries show that about one-fifth of them work in the health care and educational sector. This suggests a potential loss of tens of thousands of workers from in-demand jobs such as home health aide or nursing assistant. According to Paul Osterman, a professor at MIT, more than one-quarter of home health aides in 2015 were immigrants (this number became one-half in California and nearly two-thirds in New York). Yet projections by the government show that the economy will need to add hundreds of thousands of workers in these fields over the next decade simply to keep up with escalating demand caused primarily by a rapidly aging population.

What are people doing to protest Trump’s decision?

Since Tuesday’s announcement, there has been a rise in protests and demonstrations across the country. In Cambridge, protesters blocked traffic near Harvard Square, demanding Congress act to restore the protections for the children of people who entered the U.S. illegally. Thirty-one people were arrested, included professors from Harvard, Babson College, and Boston College. There is another protest scheduled for September 16 in Boston Common.

Many CEOs have also spoken out on social media, primarily Twitter, in defense of DACA. Some companies even offered to pay the legal fees of DACA workers.

 Finally, a coalition of artists including Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello, and Daddy Yankee have joined with Spotify to create a playlist supporting DREAMers. Interspersed between songs such as “Despacito” and “This Land is Your Land” are messages from the singers.

“As an immigrant who came to the U.S. as a child, I know what it’s like to struggle and to never take any opportunity that came my way for granted,” Cabello says in her audio clip; she has previously spoken about her status as a Cuban-Mexican immigrant. “I stand with DREAMers, who have fought so hard to be recognized as the Americans they are.”

The playlist – audio messages included – can be found at a site called “No Moment for Silence,” which will exist as an “ongoing platform for breaking news around social issues,” according to Spotify.

What about here at Northeastern?

Perhaps surprisingly, Northeastern has not declared itself a sanctuary campus, despite receiving four petitions after the November 8th election. One of the reasons Northeastern cited not to do so, according to the Sanctuary Campus Coalition, is because of the school’s close partnership with the Department of Homeland Security.

What are some resources and how can I learn more?

1. The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition

2. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

3. Petition Congress

Xandie Kuenning is the Career Editor at Her Campus and a graduate of Northeastern University with a Bachelor's in International Affairs and minors in Journalism and Psychology. She is an avid traveler with a goal to join the Travelers' Century Club. When not gallivanting around the world, she can be found reading about fairytales or Eurasian politics, baking up a storm, or watching dangerous amounts of Netflix. Follow her on Instagram @AKing1917 and on Twitter @XKuenning.
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