Since the Trump administration took office, the Deferred Actionfor Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been a hot-button issue, and thatissue has finally reached its tipping point. On Sept. 5, 2017, Attorney GeneralJeff Sessions formally notified the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that DACA was no longer statutorily authorized, thereby putting an end to the program.
DACA was founded in 2012 with then-president Obama’s executiveorder, which means that it’s not an act of Congress and that it can beoverturned by an executive action from the sitting president. While DACAallowed two years of deferred deportation, available on a renewable basis, toselect applicants who illegally entered the country as minors, it was not apath to a green card and was not an amnesty program – as it’s sometimes beendescribed.
DHS says it will considercertain requests for DACA and applications for work authorization, but only fora limited, six-month period. As of Sept. 5, the United States Citizenship andImmigration Services (USCIS) is no longer accepting initial requests for DACA.Individuals currently protected by DACA, however, will be allowed to retaintheir status and work authorizations until they expire at the end of theirtwo-year basis.
In summary, it’s complicated, and what the dissolution of DACAcould mean for employers remains a highly volatile question.
In the weeks leading up to the announcement, President Trumpprofessed to be struggling with the DACA dilemma, and there were vocaladvocates and detractors on both sides of the aisle.
Critics suggest that the so-called Dreamers (potentialbeneficiaries of DACA) fill jobs that could be filled by U.S. citizens, whileadvocates believe the DACA program unlocks significant economic potentialwithin the country.
By threatening to file afederal lawsuit – based on original overreach – agroup of attorneys general of several republican-led states set an arbitrarydeadline in an attempt to force President Trump’s hand regarding DACA.
Demise & Fallout
Legal experts generally agreed that, if DACA was cancelled, theTrump administration was likely to simply cease to approve new applications andto discontinue the renewal process.
USCIS has since posted a formal announcement detailing the “next steps” on its website. In addition to no longer accepting initialrequests under DACA, USCIS says it will adjudicate, on an individual, case-by-casebasis:
- Properly filed pending DACA initial requests and associated applications for employment authorization documents (EADs) that have been accepted as of Sept. 5, 2017.
- Properly filed pending DACA renewal requests and associated applications for EADs from current beneficiaries that have been accepted as of the date of this memorandum, and from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 that have been accepted as of Oct. 5, 2017.
A recent study conducted by two pro-immigration groups, the Centerfor American Progress and FWD.us, predicts that an average of over30,000 DACA recipients will be denied work authorization each month until all the recipients have phased out of the two-yearprovision. As such, these young people will no longer be legally eligible towork in the U.S.
Impact on Employers
There are currently about 800,000 DACA recipients, and the studycited above finds that 91 percent of this population is gainfully employed.What a repeal of DACA would mean for the workforce in states with the mostimmigrants, including Texas, Florida, California, and New York, could besignificant.
Many economists point to our low unemployment rates and the factthat DACA workers disproportionately fill jobs in sectors that experience laborshortages, including hospitality, agriculture, construction, and health care,which could all be hit hard by a DACA repeal.
Further, many DACA recipients have gone on to college and now workas young professionals. Turning the DACA clock back on them would not only hurtthem personally but would also harm their communities, families, and employers.Such a shift could force newly illegal employees back into the shadows bypushing them toward the kind of jobs that skirt legal status and that paysubsistence wages.
The fate of the DACA program – like many current elements ofimmigration – remains in chaos. With DACA’s repeal, both its recipients andtheir employers will be adversely affected.
The demise of DACA stands to affect employment in the future, asDACA recipients often fill positions left open by labor shortages that citizensaren’t inclined to fill. Without the DACA program, employers will be unable tolegally employ nearly 800,000 young people who know no other home than America.
President Trump issued a formal statement following the Sept. 5 announcement, urging Congress to respond with positive immigration reform. "I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents," writes Trump. "But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws."
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Disclaimer: This content is not a form of legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for legal counsel. Bridge US encourages readers to discuss any and all immigration-related concerns with an attorney.
[Photo: Susan Walsh, AP via CNBC]