Why Terminating DACA is Short-sighted

An excerpt from an article by Christine Swenson,
Former Immigrant Pathways Colorado Board Member and Principal at Swensen Law Office

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is the program for immigrants who were brought to the US as minors, commonly referred to as DREAMers. DACA was created by executive order when Congress failed to vote on the DREAM Act, legislation that would have provided these young people a path to lawful residency and citizenship.

Since its implementation in June, 2012, approximately 800,000 young people have filed for and received temporary relief from deportation and renewable employment authorization, valid for a period of two years. They must demonstrate a variety of requirements but also, they go through a background check to ensure they have nothing significant in their past. And by significant, I mean something more than just a traffic ticket. DACA recipients must reapply for work authorization every two years, which includes passing yet another background check. This program does not grant legal status; only Congress can do that.

Unfortunately, this wildly successful program is on the president-elect’s hit list. Given his intention on re-building the economy, we hope he’ll look at the numbers that demonstrate that this program is a success:

  • $400+ billion: the estimated loss to GDP over a decade, if the president-elect terminates this program. DACA recipients are buying homes, cars and more, and contribute to state economies by paying property taxes sales taxes. and registration and title fees. (The gross domestic product (GDP) is one of the primary indicators used to gauge the health of a country’s economy. It represents the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a specific time period; you can think of it as the size of the economy.)
  • 95%: the percent of DACA recipients who are working, paying their taxes and paying into social security and Medicare.
  • 90%: The percent of DACA recipients who are completing high school and going to college, which means they are working in better, higher paying jobs.

To cancel such a program can mean many things and, at this point, we don’t know what his intentions are. The program can be terminated, all recipients forced to turn in their work authorization cards, and immediately put into deportation proceedings. As discussed below, that is the least likely outcome, in my opinion.

It could be phased out by preventing new applicants from being reviewed, and allowing those who currently have work authorization to lapse rather than renewing them. Alternatively, those with current work authorization may be “grandfathered” in. It is too soon to tell.

Now, let’s briefly address the realities behind trying to suddenly deport close to 800,000 people. There are approximately 60 immigration courts throughout the US. Assuming all DACA recipients are spread out equally across the US (which they aren’t but it makes for easy math), that means each courthouse would face an immediate influx of 13,400 cases per courthouse. Looking at this another way, there are currently approximately 250 immigration judges. Distributing all DACA recipients equally would cause an increase of 3,200 cases per judge.

Courts are already overwhelmed with cases because of the significant deportation actions pursued by the Obama administration. Moving to deport DACA recipients would destroy the immigration court system that is already broken as it attempts to handle current deportation actions. In short, if DACA is terminated completely upon the president-elect’s first days, the influx of cases into the system will not be resolved quickly.

The good news, if it can be called that, is that no matter what happens, no one will be deported overnight and those who are put in deportation can and should fight deportation. We would be honored to help you in that fight.