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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 2021 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 July, the Biden Administration appealed this ruling and defended the DACA policy in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision—likely ruling that DACA is illegal and that the policy must end—could be handed down as soon as September. New 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 ended.1

Each and every business day for 2 years, 1,000 more 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 22,000 jobs would be lost each and every month for two years—about 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 1,600 DACA recipients working in healthcare, including doctors and nurses, 800 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.

MONTHLY WORKFORCE LOSSES IF DACA ENDS

Average monthly number of jobs lost, by occupational group
Occupational groupNumber of monthly job losses
Office administration2,700
Food preparation2,500
Sales2,500
Construction2,400
Transportation2,100
Healthcare1,600
Manufacturing and production1,500
Management1,100
Education800
Building and grounds800
Installation, maintenance, and repair700
Personal care600
Business and financial600
Other occupations2,100
TOTAL JOBS LOST22,000
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 2019 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 nearly 400,000 Dreamers who should be eligible to receive DACA protections from applying for them. For example, some 93,000 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 only a quarter of the 100,000 undocumented high school graduates in 2022 would be eligible for DACA if new applications were being processed.

California and Texas, home to the highest numbers of DACA recipients, would suffer the highest number of job losses if DACA ended, with an estimated 6,000 monthly job losses in California and 5,000 in Texas. In Texas, this means 400 healthcare workers and 300 teachers would be forced out of their jobs each month. 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, 700 each in Florida and North Carolina, 600 in Georgia, and 500 each in Washington and Colorado—with terrible ripple effects for DACA recipients’ families and broader communities.

Because the DACA renewal period is 24 months, job losses would continue and compound over those two years. When the last DACA recipient’s work permit expires, the U.S. will have lost more than half a million jobs, and the U.S. economy will lose as much as $11.7 billion annually, or roughly $1 billion monthly, in wages from previously employed DACA recipients.

Each and every day for two years, 1,000 more U.S. citizen 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 or will soon be approaching them. 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. This means an estimated 25,000 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, an estimated 5,000 U.S. citizens have a spouse who would lose deportation protections. This means each day for two years, nearly 1,000 immediate U.S. citizen family members will see a loved one at immediate risk of deportation.

MONTHLY NUMBER OF U.S. CITIZENS WITH A DACA FAMILY MEMBER LOSING DEPORTATION PROTECTIONS IF DACA ENDS

State estimates for U.S. citizen children less than 18 years old and U.S. citizen spouses married to a DACA recipient
StateU.S. Citizen ChildrenU.S. Citizen Spouses
California6,0001,500
Texas5,0001,000
Illinois1,700300
Arizona1,200300
North Carolina1,200100
Georgia1,000100
New York800100
Florida700100
Washington700200
Colorado500100
All Other States6,2001,200
TOTAL in U.S.25,0005,000
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 2019 American Community Survey data

This would mean 6,000 U.S. citizen children in California and a further 5,000 in Texas would have a parent becoming eligible for deportation each month for two years. It would mean that, each month for two years, 1,500 U.S. citizen spouses of DACA recipients in California and 1,000 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 in 2022 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 in 2022 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 this year. We urge all parties to do their part to support these crucial efforts.

Notes

  1. Analysis of the 2022 DACA population is based on augmented 2019 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 2019, estimates are considered minimums, as DACA recipient average age is now three years older, and a larger number are likely in the labor force and have begun building families.

Phillip Connor

Senior Demographer

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