There are approximately 800,000 people in the U.S. who are protected from deportation and authorized to work under DACA, of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program was initiated in 2012 by the Obama administration in order to protect innocent people who are only unauthorized in the U.S. because they were brought here as children.
DACA recipients, often called "Dreamers," were brought to the U.S. before age 16 and have lived here continuously ever since. Most have virtually no connection to their country of origin; many don't speak the language. Sending them back would feel like forcing them to move to a foreign country.
Now, President Trump has announced a phased-out end to the DACA protections in six months. The good news is that the DACA protections will remain in place at least until then. In the meantime, Congress could pass a law making the protections permanent, or the courts could step in to protect the Dreamers.
Even if neither of those occurs, President Trump has told Homeland Security that DACA recipients are not to be considered enforcement priorities unless they become involved in criminal activity.
So, even after the Trump announcement, DACA recipients should not panic. But what would it mean for people to lose these protections?
The New York Times interviewed Dreamers and the National Immigration Law Center to consider the real-world consequences of an end to DACA:
- Loss of protection from deportation
- Loss of work authorizations and state financial aid eligibility
- With the loss of their jobs, loss of employee-sponsored health insurance and other benefits
- Loss of any state-subsidized health coverage
- For over half of DACA beneficiaries, loss of their driver's licenses
- Loss of eligibility for professional and occupational licenses
Along with those consequences, many DACA recipients made decisions relying on the program lasting at least two years and being renewable. Many bought homes, started families and began graduate programs. They stand to lose a lot.
Moreover, many of the privileges associated with DACA were actually dependant on state programs. DACA recipients were never eligible for federally-sponsored health insurance under Medicare or Medicaid, or for federal student loan programs. So, what each Dreamer stands to lose depends a lot on where they live.
If you're a Dreamer who has signed up for DACA, now is an excellent time to discuss your situation with an immigration law attorney. Your meetings with an attorney are completely confidential and can help you determine your best next steps.