What happens if DACA ends?

1,000 jobs will be lost each and every business day for the next two years.
1,000 U.S. citizens will see a family member exposed to deportation each and every day for the next two years.
Reyna Montoya is a teacher and a DACA recipient. Unfortunately many young people in her community–including her students–may no longer be able to access the policy’s protections. Watch Reyna's story here.

For more than ten years, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy has provided protection from deportation and work authorization for undocumented young people who arrived as children and who have grown up in the United States. The DACA policy, launched by the Obama Administration in 2012, has proved to be a tremendous success for nearly one million people and their families and communities to date; it is arguably the most positive immigration policy of this century.

Despite DACA’s overwhelming success, the future of the policy—and the Dreamers protected by it—is facing urgent legal threats.

A federal judge in Texas ruled in 2023 that the DACA policy is unlawful, barring the government from accepting new applications; for now, current DACA holders are still permitted to renew their status every two years as outlined by the original policy. In the months ahead, the Fifth Circuit will hear arguments on the legality of DACA with no guarantee that renewals will continue after a likely negative ruling and the case is submitted to the Supreme Court. As DACA continues to be litigated in the courts, analysis by FWD.us makes clear the severe damage to the U.S. economy and to millions of U.S. families that would occur if DACA ends, or if DACA renewals are not allowed to continue.1

Each and every business day for 2 years, nearly 1,000 U.S. jobs will be lost

A critical aspect of DACA, and a driving force for much of its success, is that DACA provides recipients access to employment authorization documents, allowing them to pursue employment in the United States, as well as making them eligible for certain benefits like a driver’s license. If DACA ended or renewals were restricted, current DACA recipients would lose their work authorization and all ancillary privileges that allow them to travel safely and take care of vital daily activities, like driving their kids to school or taking family members to doctor’s visits.

Because DACA renewals are granted on a rolling basis, local communities would almost immediately feel the impact if renewals were blocked. An estimated 18,000 jobs would be lost each and every month for two years—nearly 1,000 jobs each business day—at a time when workforce shortages are already hurting families and driving up costs across the country.

If DACA renewals are halted, this means that each month for two years, some 1,500 DACA recipients working in healthcare, including doctors and nurses, 700 educational professionals like teachers and teacher aides, and 600 personal care workers in child or senior care would be forced out of their jobs, which would be devastating to communities across the country.

Note: Monthly losses would likely continue for two years until the last remaining DACA recipients could not renew their status.
Source: FWD.us analysis of augmented 2022 American Community Survey data.

Even now, the number of people protected by DACA is shrinking. The policy is closed to new applications due to legal challenges, prohibiting some 600,000 Dreamers who should be eligible to receive DACA protections from applying for them. For example, nearly 100,000 new, initial applications for DACA are pending adjudication at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services because their processing has been halted by the courts. Currently, only renewals are being processed, and even then, the rules for age and arrival date have remained unchanged for more than a decade, meaning the DACA policy is largely frozen to new applicants. Consequently, while DACA recipients who received protections early on, many as students, are now building careers, the post-DACA generation of Dreamers is entering adulthood with far fewer opportunities. For example, FWD.us estimates that nearly all of the 120,000 undocumented high school graduates in 2023 would be ineligible for DACA if new applications were being processed.

California, the state home to the highest numbers of DACA recipients, would suffer the highest number of job losses if DACA ended, with an estimated 5,200 total monthly job losses including 500 monthly losses of healthcare workers and 200 educators. More specifically, ending DACA would mean an estimated loss of 200 monthly healthcare job losses as well as 50 educators in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim area alone.

In Texas, the state with the second largest number of DACA recipients, would see an estimated 2,600 monthly job losses, including as many as 200 monthly healthcare job losses and 100 educators monthly. Among other top states of DACA recipients, the monthly job losses would amount to 1,000 individuals in Illinois, 800 in New York, 800 in Arizona, 600 in Florida, 600 in Georgia, and 500 each in Washington, Colorado, Nevada, and North Carolina—with terrible ripple effects for DACA recipients’ families and broader communities.

Each and every day for two years, more than 1,000 additional U.S. citizens—including children and spouses of DACA recipients—will face separation

Economic losses from DACA’s ending would represent only the tip of the iceberg. Because most DACA recipients have lived in the U.S. for two decades or more, losing DACA would hurt families across the country, with far-reaching harm for nearly every community in the U.S. DACA recipients have deep roots in their local communities. Most are in their thirties. They own homes here, have started businesses, and are raising their kids and building their families. Critically, many DACA recipients have children and spouses who are U.S. citizens.

If DACA renewals were halted, DACA recipients could lose their protections from deportation, putting them at immediate risk. With an estimated 1,000,000 U.S. citizens living with DACA recipients—spouses, children, siblings, other family members—this means each day for two years, more than 1,000 U.S. citizen family members will see a loved one at immediate risk of deportation. More specifically, nearly 13,000 U.S. citizen children each month would be living with a parent at risk of being torn from their families and deported to a country they likely don’t even remember. Similarly, nearly 4,000 U.S. citizens have a spouse who would lose deportation protections.

Note: Monthly losses would likely continue for two years until the last remaining DACA recipients could not renew their status.
Source: FWD.us analysis of augmented 2022 American Community Survey data.

This would mean 2,700 U.S. citizen children in California and a further 2,400 in Texas would have a parent becoming eligible for deportation each month for two years. It would mean that, each month for two years, 1,300 U.S. citizen spouses of DACA recipients in California and 800 in Texas could see their spouses deported. Even these large numbers tell only part of the story. Living with the threat of deportation places an enormous burden on family members and children, compromising their ability to concentrate at work or school and adding terrible stress and fear to their daily lives.

A group of Dreamers sit around a conference table, speaking with someone.

Congress must pass a permanent legislative solution to protect Dreamers

The threat to DACA recipients is real, and it’s right in front of us. While Dreamers have long been stuck in a precarious position, the current legal threats to DACA have put the policy in greater danger than ever. Congress must pass a permanent legislative solution to protect Dreamers, or Dreamers’ futures in this country, and the futures of their families and communities, will be in great peril.

Ending DACA would severely damage businesses across the country. Hospitals would be unable to serve as many patients. Classrooms would lose their teachers. And families of all backgrounds would experience the enormous stress of losing loved ones to deportation.

DACA faces the imminent risk of being ended, threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people. It is imperative that eligible DACA recipients continue to renew their DACA as soon as possible, and that Congress act. We urge all parties to do their part to support these crucial efforts.


  1. Analysis of the 2024 DACA population is based on augmented 2022 American Community Survey (ACS) data. Respondents in the ACS data were randomly selected based on DACA eligibility requirements, social and economic characteristics, country of birth, state of residence, and gender. Since ACS data were collected in 2022, estimates are considered minimums, as DACA recipient average age is now two years older, and a larger number could be in the labor force and have begun building families.

Phillip Connor

Senior Demographer

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