Happy Birthday, DACA!

The Obama administration’s ambitious and brave Immigration program – ‘Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals’ (“DACA”), turned 3 years old this summer (announcement of the program was made on June 15, 2012 and the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) began accepting applications from respondents on August 15 of the same year).  In fact, the first cycle of renewal applications (DACA gives a 2 year benefit only) have begun in earnest.  To generally recap the benefits conferred by DACA: undocumented childhood immigrants (younger than 16 years old) to the United States and have resided here continuously since are given a pathway to a measure of social and economic incorporation into our American fabric (e.g. work authorization, drivers licenses, a social security number, etc); DACA does NOT presently confer permanent residency or citizen status.  To be sure, DACA has been among the most contentious policies promulgated by the administration and has faced severe legal and politically partisan challenges since inception.  See http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/understanding-initial-legal-challenges-immigration-accountability-executive-action .  The most critical challenge to the administration’s executive actions has been the forced halt of the President’s DAPA plan (an expansion of DACA which would confer essentially the same benefits to parents of childhood arrivals).  

However, the prescience of the administration’s policy decision to launch DACA and, conversely, the naivete of many of the program’s opponents seem apparent when looking at some of the basic realities of undocumented immigration to this country.  First, there are an approximate 11 million undocumented aliens presently living in this country.  Statistics further indicate that over 71% of that total population came from Mexico and other central American countries.  More than 8 million of that number work here.  More than 60% of that population work in industries that other Americans have been leaving in droves in the past few decades for various reasons, construction, production/manufacturing, and the services/hospitality industries.  http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/frequently-requested-statistics-immigrants-and-immigration-united-states ; http://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/us-immigration-policy-program-data-hub/unauthorized-immigrant-population-profiles ; http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/03/27/where-americas-undocumented-immigrants-work/ ; In a nutshell, these figures suggest a) undocumented immigrants are significantly more willing and/or able to work gainfully upon arrival in the United States than most other demographic groups (in fact, there is general consensus among economists that undocumented aliens provide a net benefit to the national economy: contributing 1.5 billion annually to Medicare and 7 billion annually to Social Security despite having no chance of using those benefits themselves); b) undocumented aliens have and continue to fill certain gaps by profession.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-merriman/our-economy-profits-from-_2_b_2551900.html

Going back to the specific substance of DACA, there are other statistics the reader may want to keep in mind: The White House’s Council of Economic Advisors (“CEA”) estimates a net economic boon to the United States as a result of the programs (DACA + DAPA) of as much as 0.9% increase to GDP over the next 10 years, or $210 bn.  Most of the childhood arrivals covered by DACA are already socially integrated into society (attending school, eventually working, involved in their communities.  Additionally, DACA beneficiaries have largely taken advantage of the social opportunities conferred – with 60% obtaining new jobs as a result, 60% obtaining drivers licenses, and 45% reporting increased job earnings.  http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/executive-action-immigration-resource-page ; http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/special-reports/two-years-and-counting-assessing-growing-power-daca.

Though DACA’s future may be uncertain – the debate over DACA will surely continue to rage, and the acrimony from certain corners will surely continue to fly, it is this reader’s humble opinion that the principles underlying the program are fundamentally well-reasoned and ultimately good for all Americans.  The citations that I have included in this post represent just a small amount of available data collected on the program and I welcome readers to conduct their own findings in reaching an informed conclusion.

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