Washington, D.C. — A new column released today by the Center for American Progress underscores that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) continues to be a lifeline for its beneficiaries and their families. As such, strengthening the DACA program—and ultimately ensuring a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s Dreamers—would help families stay together, secure long-term stability, and help generate a robust economy that will support the nation as it faces the challenges of COVID-19 and its economic aftermath.
Since its inception in 2012, DACA has allowed more than 800,000 young immigrants to remain with their families and communities in the United States. Although a majority of Americans across the political spectrum support a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, for the past four years, DACA and its beneficiaries have been under attack. The U.S. Supreme Court kept DACA alive, despite the former administration’s repeated attempts to end the program. However, the fate of Dreamers remains in limbo, with an upcoming ruling pending in a case before a federal judge in Texas.
The column includes personal stories of three DACA recipients—including a health care worker—who shared how the program has positively affected their lives. The program remains critical by:
- Providing work authorization: With work authorization, DACA beneficiaries have been able to access more stable jobs with better benefits. DACA has also given beneficiaries a greater sense of stability, with more than 83 percent of DACA recipients previously surveyed reporting that increased earnings helped them become financially independent.
- Creating a talent pool for the health care industry: Amid a public health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, more than 200,000 Dreamers have kept the country safe and running as essential workers. The Association of American Medical Colleges has also invested significant resources to train medical residents with DACA on the “reliance [of] DACA recipients’ continued eligibility to work in the U.S.”
- Giving stability for families and communities: DACA recipients—who, on average, arrived in the United States at the age of 7 and have lived here for more than 20 years—have spent the majority of their lives in the United States. They are integrated into families and communities, and many have formed families of their own. An estimated 254,000 U.S. citizen children have a parent protected under the program, and 1.5 million people live with DACA recipient family members.
- Allowing them to contribute to businesses and the overall economy: DACA recipients have started businesses that employ an estimated 86,000. They make crucial contributions to Social Security and Medicare funds through payroll taxes—bolstering a public safety net for which they are ineligible. DACA recipients and their households pay $8.7 billion in federal, state, and local taxes each year and hold an estimated $24 billion in spending power.
“Protecting Dreamers is a moral and economic imperative. As President Joe Biden noted in his first address to a joint session of Congress, it is time for Congress to act and fix our nation’s broken immigration system. While his administration has already made a clear commitment to strengthen and defend the DACA program, only Congress can give Dreamers the permanent protections that they need to remain with their families and communities,” says Claudia Flores, senior campaign manager for the Immigration Policy team at CAP and co-author of this column. “Against all odds and four years of constant attacks, it is undeniable that Dreamers continue to strengthen and enrich our nation, and they must be allowed to stay.”
“Another court case threatens the livelihoods of Susana, of Julio, and of Gabriela, the DACA recipients interviewed in this column who make invaluable contributions to the United States. Make no mistake—ending DACA would have devastating repercussions for families, for communities, and for economies across the country,” says Nicole Prchal Svajlenka, associate director of research for the Immigration Policy team at CAP and co-author of this column.
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