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DACA and Dreamers: Questions and Answers

Have questions about Dreamers and DACA recipients? You are not alone. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers:

DACA and Dreamers: Questions and Answers

What’s the difference between Dreamers and those enrolled in the DACA program?

Not all Dreamers are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections. Dreamers are those who could have been protected under the 2001 DREAM Act, which would have protected people who arrived in America before they reached the age of 18. DACA offers relief for Dreamers who came to America before June 15, 2007 prior to their 16th birthday and have enrolled in the DACA program.

Who are the people enrolled in DACA?

The approximate median age of active DACA recipients is 25 years old, who, on average, arrived at the age of 7. Of the roughly 650,000 DACA enrollees in the U.S., about 80 percent are from Mexico and 9 percent are from Northern Triangle Countries that include El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Thousands of other DACA recipients hail from places like South Korea, the Philippines, India, Jamaica, and Poland.

To qualify for DACA, applicants must have graduated from high school, obtained a GED, or be a current student. Currently, about 216,000 DACA eligible Americans are pursuing post-secondary education. Roughly 28,000 of these students are pursuing advanced degrees. Overall, an estimated 96 percent of DACA recipients are either working or are employed in school.

How does DACA screen out dangerous criminals?

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), background checks for DACA applicants involve checking their biographic and biometric information against a variety of databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal government agencies. DACA applicants submit their fingerprints, photographs, and signatures to USCIS. Applicants cannot qualify if they’ve been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor like drunk driving, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety. If a DACA recipient fails to abide by the previously mentioned requirements, they lose their protections and can be deported.

How would a suspension of DACA affect America’s response to COVID 19?

Suspending DACA would without a replacement would render over 43,000 health care and social assistance workers unable to work. Currently, about 12,300 DACA recipients are employed in hospitals and nursing facilities. The Association of American Medical Colleges notes that about 200 of these DACA enrollees are physicians, medical residents, or medical students, and that each of whom will likely treat between 1,500-4,600 patients each year. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, it costs about $157,602 to train each of these professionals during their residency. These resources would be squandered if no DACA solution is passed.

Moreover, DACA enrollees are also crucial for strengthening America’s supply chains. Roughly 14,500 recipients work in the manufacturing sector, which includes the production of medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, and cleaning supplies. An additional 67,200 other DACA recipients are employed in a range of other essential industries, including transportation, warehousing, retail, and waste management.

What are the economic contributions of DACA recipients?

Numbers from the American Action Forum find that DACA recipients contribute an average of $42 billion in annual GDP and pay $3.4 billion more in taxes than they consume in benefits each year. Over the next decade, DACA enrollees are also projected to contribute a total of $24.6 billion to Medicare and Social Security.

How would a DACA suspension with no solution impact American businesses?

report by FWD.us states that repealing DACA without a replacement could remove 25,000 workers from the U.S. labor force each month over the next two years. Moreover, a survey from Envoy Global and The Harris Poll found that 82 percent of American employers reported that a rescission of DACA would have a “significant impact” on their talent pool.

Removing DACA could also mean the loss of 45,000 U.S. businesses that DACA eligible entrepreneurs started and the annual $658.7 million in income that those businesses generated.

Why haven’t Dreamers gotten in line to apply legally already?
It seems logical and easy, but unfortunately, there is no “line” or avenue for unauthorized immigrants to get in. Moreover, most people living in the U.S. unlawfully can’t simply return to their country of origin and re-enter the U.S. legally. People who have lived in the U.S. without legal status for more than 180 days are banned from the country for 3 years. People who have lived in the country unlawfully for over a year are barred for a decade.  This means that Dreamers, who have been living in the U.S. since they were children, generally can’t enter the U.S. legally unless they return to a country they barely know and remain there for ten years.

Does DACA encourage more people to come here illegally?

DACA only protects people who entered the country before June 2007. Before DACA was announced in 2012, there were already surges in unaccompanied children crossing the border. These increases remained steady the following year.

Would a DACA solution open the door to Dreamers sponsoring tons of relatives to come to America?

If a Dreamer earned a green card, they’d be able to sponsor their children and spouses. However, because Dreamers came to the U.S. at a young age, it’s more likely that their children were already born in the U.S., making them citizens. It’s also likely that Dreamers met their spouses inside the U.S., making it likely that they are citizens, green card holders, or Dreamers themselves.

If a Dreamer were to earn U.S. citizenship, they could technically sponsor their parents and siblings for green cards. But this too would be quite improbable given that their parents are likely barred from coming back to the U.S. as punishment for residing in the country unlawfully, and siblings would likely wait decades in line due to crisis level green card backlogs. Because of these barriers, the Migration Policy Institute estimates that Dreamers would, on average, only sponsor between .65-1.03 family members.

How would a DACA suspension affect American families?

Many Dreamers are now married with children. According to estimates from the Center for Migration Studies, about 329,600 U.S. children have at least one parent who is enrolled in DACA. Terminating the program without a solution would mean that well over a quarter million U.S. children would be at risk of having one or both of their parents removed. Rescinding DACA would also harm these parents’ ability to economically provide for their families.