In Defense of DACA

The precarious state of DACA is currently in the hands of the Supreme Court, as they take up the case Department of Homeland Security V Regents of the University of California. In contemplating whether the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind the program, which was put forth on the premise that Obama’s execution of a “prosecutorial discretion” was unconstitutional, is lawful, the lives of 700,000 dreamers are at stake as they fear deportation from the only country they have grown up to call home. Although a ruling in favor of the White House may be a small victory for the conservative fanbase, the economic and political implications of ending the DACA program are far too costly for the U.S. It would be imprudent for the Trump administration to completely eradicate this safeguarding mechanism for a beneficial and increasingly essential community.

It seems pertinent to first myth-bust the unwarranted, inaccurate depiction of immigrants. For starters, President Trump has on many occasions described “dreamers” as rapists, gang members, and overall a dangerous presence. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as the process of obtaining DACA ensures that no one with a major criminal background can satisfy the strict criteria of the program. The application and renewal process is predicated on a thorough background check, meaning that those who are convicted of certain criminal activities, such as a felony or significant misdemeanor, are rejected and denied. Moreover, a USCIS report concluded that 89.2% of DACA applicants who were approved had zero arrests or apprehensions; 2.2% had more than one arrest or apprehension, while only 24 people had more than 10 arrests or apprehensions.

Looking at the quantitative side of the argument, the incredible research done at the American Action Forum portrays the dreamers as an economic boon. According to their estimate, the 380,000 employed DACA recipients each contribute yearly an average $109,000 to the GDP. The culmination of deportations, that will ensue as a result of rescinding the program, will diminish the annual GDP by as much as $42 billion. 

In addition to the staggering productivity loss, the wise folks at AAF underscored the weight of the budgetary loss that would be required for enforcing and removing “dreamers”. Removing the 790,000 workers protected by DACA, according to their data analysis, would cost the federal government $7 billion to $21 billion. The price of legal detainment and processing, as well as transportation back to their original countries, must also be taken into consideration when assessing the fiscal costs of ending the program. All in all, this would shrink the labor force by 740,000 workers and reduce real GDP by $72 billion.

Lastly, there are geopolitical consequences that will destabilize the political landscape and possibly worsen migrant flows if DACA were to be ended. A good portion of dreamers come from war-stricken countries with violence, poverty, and lack of employment. These countries will undoubtedly be unable to address and adapt to the tens of thousands of children who will be in need of jobs, education, and government care. Therefore, the overburdened governments would most likely be unable to support the return of the dreamers, and blame America for a lack of communication and cooperation. More importantly, these dreamers will be susceptible to violence and gang-related crimes, as they will most likely be unfamiliar with the region and culture. Deporting our dreamers back to where they came from would not only further destabilize regions already swamped with corruption, but this may again inevitably lead to an influx of refugees most likely headed northbound. Although this is conjecture at best, it is within reason to believe that deportation of dreamers will be an infinite regression of asylum-seeking immigrants attempting to flee a violent country.