Ten years later, the Dreamers still count on DACA - Niskanen Center

Ten years later, the Dreamers still count on DACA – Niskanen Center

The Fifth Circuit Court’s ruling on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – an Obama-era executive program postponing the deportation of certain immigrant children and allowing them to work in the United States – confirmed his inevitable demise. Over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients have come to rely on the benefits of the program to continue living and working legally in the only country most have ever known. Now is the time for Congress to protect the DACA program – which enjoys broad support – and protect DACA beneficiaries (and American citizens) from the disastrous economic consequences of its termination.

If American citizens are struggling to understand the personal value of the Dreamers program, they should turn to the expiration of Social Security and its resulting impacts. Many Americans depend on this program the same way Dreamers depend on DACA.

The DACA program is absolutely crucial for its beneficiaries. In turn, the United States also relies on Dreamers. Their economic contributions play an important role in increasing real GDP through tax payments, purchasing power and income flows. Dreamers have a purchasing power of over $25.3 billion and contribute over $42 billion to the US GDP annually. The expulsion of dreamers will lead to an estimated loss of income of 7-21 billion dollars, or even more. Increased government spending to evict these people risks pushing inflation higher than the current crisis, taking more money out of the pockets of American taxpayers.

The economy, of course, is not the only area where Dreamers and the United States benefit from DACA. Housing, work, education and health care also benefit from the far-reaching positive effects of DACA.


DACA recipients are the parents of more than 300,000 children, 99% of whom are US citizens and could be placed in foster care if one or both parents are deported. About 80% of recipients were also concerned about the safety of their families and homelessness if they were deported. This anxiety is partly due to the fact that 70% of Dreamers have no family ties in their “country of birth”, which compounds current concerns about deportation. Without a safety network in a foreign country, DACA recipients are vulnerable to homelessness, food insecurity, and physical security issues.


More than 56,000 DACA recipients are homeowners with mortgages. With no work permits and facing eviction, foreclosures are likely to loom, costing $567 million in lost mortgage payments each year. These foreclosures or auctions could have massive repercussions on the economic prospects of the real estate market as well as on inflation. This translates into falling financial gains and upward mobility that families have achieved through DACA as they no longer have housing or the ability to fund basic necessities.


While only 8% of Dreamers are currently entrepreneurs and small business owners, they play a vital role in employing other workers who depend on them for income. The House Small Business Committee estimated in 2018 that the impact of cuts to the DACA program is “equivalent to about 30 major regulations on employers.” This places most of the economic impacts of DACA on the employers of Dreamers who depend on them for work and can limit the success of small businesses as they struggle to find replacement workers.

More than 87% of DACA recipients surveyed in 2020 said the program gave them greater financial independence. Dreamers tend to produce more successful businesses and “far outpace native Americans in ownership and business creation.” The ability to find success and create a more stable life for your family through DACA is the epitome of the “American Dream.”

Additionally, COVID-19 has hit healthcare workers and teachers hard, and the eviction of 30,000 essential workers in these sectors will massively wear them down when they need them most. Some states with struggling labor markets, such as California and Texas, will be hit harder than others. These states employ a quarter of DACA recipients in critical career fields like education and health services. Wage increases resulting from skilled labor shortages will lead to the current inflation crisis, which will make Dreamer’s absence felt economically by ordinary citizens.

Following the expulsion, the United States will not only face $6.3 billion in employee turnover costs; there will also be nearly 18% fewer people in the labor force.


One in three Dreamers is enrolled in higher education, and many others have obtained a baccalaureate. These opportunities have allowed the Dreamers to have a level of education 6.4% higher than that of current American citizens.

Since most Dreamers cannot access federal aid for education or in-state tuition, work authorization allows them to work to pay for their education. In some states, students will be barred from higher education because of their unauthorized status, regardless of years completed and ability to pay. This not only alienates them from student communities, but eliminates the possibility of upward mobility through education.

Health care

More than half of Dreamers get health care benefits through their employers because they don’t qualify for federal assistance. This could leave many people without insurance if states withdraw employer-provided health care for undocumented immigrants. The stress of seeking alternative health care, especially for people with pre-existing conditions, can lead to mental strain and depression.

If the Dreamers are evicted, the health services they use through their employers will be unavailable, making them less likely to spend as consumers, thus harming national and local economies with lost revenue. over $25 billion. Their absence will be felt by Medicare users in the health sector. system as they complete the program with contributions of $367 million. For Dreamers who get health services under privatized plans, the inability to make monthly payments without a job will hurt insurance companies.

Additionally, the potential shortage of 2.4 million healthcare workers over the next two years will be compounded without the 29,000 Dreamers healthcare workers, nurses and doctors. Their absence will be felt by older Americans who rely on Dreamers for home care and will force them into expensive long-term care ($100,000 on average), diminishing their overall quality of life.

For all of these reasons, it is imperative that Congress pass bipartisan legislation to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who rely on DACA are protected by the program that is having a meaningful impact on their lives. This program provides vital services to immigrants, which in turn benefits American society as a whole, so it is imperative that it be legislatively protected to ensure that immigrants and Americans continue to enjoy its myriad benefits.

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