DACA work permit. Image credit: https://flic.kr/p/nPGFbD

The importance of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy

The Trump administration’s decision to (sort of) rescind DACA, despite formally announcing in June that the policy will temporarily remain intact epitomizes the contentious nature of the age-old question: Who is American?

While undocumented immigration may seem like a contemporary phenomenon, it is important to acknowledge that shifts in migration policy have defined the man-made differences between legal versus illegal migration. Recent outrage on both Democratic and Republican fronts of the president’s decision to pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and roll back DACA, speak to how the question of who belongs is not as simple as having a piece of paper.

The majority of Americans polled agree that “Dreamers” should be allowed to stay and become citizens if they meet certain requirements. Many arrived as infants and consider English their native language and the United States the only home they have ever known. It is naïve of the President and Trump supporters to believe that rescinding DACA will not have adverse effects on US schools, the economy, and a social commitment to inclusion. Removing 800,000 individuals from the formal labor market is projected to cost billions of dollars in employee turnover and termination costs. In New York State there are close to 38,000 DACA recipients as diverse as the city in which most of them thrive. At CUNY alone, there are thousands of undocumented students and hundreds of DACA recipients who are not only academically ambitious but high-performing. The majority of DACA students are able to excel in school due to the platform DACA provides to receive private scholarships and fund their education.

Although little is known about who DACA recipients are, we know they have overcome the impoverished environments they inherited from their parents to become successful contributors. All reports indicate their contributions to work, community, and to our social security funds and taxes are necessary. They receive few benefits in return. They are not like the typical undocumented. They are highly educated. Their current and future earnings and buying power can fuel communities.

It is also naïve to think that DACA recipients, who are on average 22 years old, adversely affect the employment prospects and wages of other American workers. The majority of DACA recipients are still in school. The Migration Policy Institute reports that the DACA eligible comprise just 1.3% of the 48.9 million people ages 16 to 32 in the labor force in 2014. The small number suggest that they are unlikely to have an impact on other US workers. They do not take away jobs.

Furthermore, the conservative rhetoric of immigrants taking American jobs is not a DACA issue; it is a question of economic structure and the decline of industrial America and the vanishing working class. A significant number of DACA recipients, despite coming from poverty, are or will be college-educated and will not be competing for the types of jobs the scapegoat rhetoric speaks to.

Moreover, as policy we should allow young people to come forward instead of hiding in the shadows. By allowing them to step forward, going through extensive background checks, and providing them with DACA, we should also give them a path to citizenship.

Margaret Chin’s father came to the United States in 1937 at the age of 12 as a “paper son.” He went to school, was in the army for WWII, and got married to a war bride. Not until he confessed that he was really “undocumented” did his status get regulated and he became a US citizen under his own name.

We should do the same for these young people.


Hyein Lee is in the sociology program CUNY Graduate Center and a research analyst at CUNY’s Office of Research, Evaluation & Program Support. Her research and work focus on undocumented students in higher education. Margaret Chin is in the sociology departments at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center. She is the author of Sewing Women: Immigrants in the New York City Garment Industry.

Comments 16


September 8, 2017

Interesting. How can it be that you simultaneously claim that nearly 1-million job-eligible persons are "not only academically ambitious but high-performing" but "do not take away jobs"? Do these persons contribute to our society, or do they not? It seems you want to make both arguments at once. 1.3% of the 48.9 million people ages 16 to 32 is 1.3% of that subset of persons competing in the workforce.

What is the unemployment rate of those legal American citizens whose parents committed no crime, but who are forced to compete with a constant, illegal developing-world workforce inflow? Dare I ask such a question in such an intellectually delicate climate as sociology, where your love for all your illegal immigrant friends comes before data analysis and facts? Silly me, how could I overlook our never-ending resources, our limitless job potential, and our perfect ability to accommodate and provide for the citizens we already have.

Never mind, questions like these probably cannot be honestly answered in a discourse that forbids that we question the assumption that American workers shall carry the burden educating and giving opportunity to a never-ending flow of untrained workers from the developing world. Such is our burden, after all, for we are wealthy, and they are so humbly brown and needy. We shall admit all the billions of Mexico, Central America and Africa, for it's the only way to satisfy Hyein Lee's and Margaret Chin's adoration for "dreamers."

Shall China admit them all too, I wonder?

Jon b

October 20, 2018

DACA is CACA same with DAPA and DREAMers...it's a sad case when the USA cares MORE for illegal aliens than it's own citizens...our forefathers are turning over in their graves...The way i see it these subhuman parasites are INVADERS..they don't want to assimalate they don't want to read write speak and understand the English language they expect us US Citizens to speak THEIR language which is 90% Spanish...what SHOULD be done is END the "anchor baby" clause (which in itself was NEVER meant for illegal aliens) END DACA END DAPA END chain migration END the visa lottery and END the DREAM Act...The President needs to have US armed forces on the border and give the orders "shoot to KILL" that's the ONLY way to stop them...these subhumans are NOT our friends...they are INVADERS taking over our country and the stupid libtard demonRATS are letting them get away with it...


October 21, 2018

I'm a person of the 1960's as a matter of fact I was Born in the Great State of Mississippi in the year of 1961 and yes my ancestors were all Former Slaves for a period of more than 400 + years so to Live and see this Happening is just a repeat of what happened to my people no I am not talking about people who came from Africa in the Last 50 years or so Because they are not true Black American's who's people has suffered for a very very long time by Another's hand and yes there is conflict all over the world today but I am not concerned about those people I'm only Concerned about my Black American people who's Ancestors were former slaves not fake people of color who comes over here to our country and pretend that they and there people went through exactly all the Horror's that my real Black American people faced on a day to day basis I'm also not talking about any Dam Muslims either because they just ride off the true Black American's coat tails anyways they always have and they always will yes the people of central America are having big problems but running over here to our country isn't really going to solve there problems at this time or juncture because if who we have in the white house right now Trump is right about a lot of things and putting American's first is his main goal and the American people should understand that and honor that also I don't know EXACTLY why all these people are having Bleeding hearts but they can put those emotions away because they are not serving a purpose right now towards this immigration thing because bringing in any one type of Dominating group will just throw everything that we have accomplished off course and just screw everything up we need to get things back to the way that they were back in the 1960's no I'm not saying that people should go back to being treated badly like they were back then I'm just saying that the population needs to go back to that count of every race that existed back then thats all that I'm saying but whatever does happen just don't let in a lot of AFRICANS from Africa into our country because if that was to happen it would just become a repeat of Australia with the Sudanese people running around kicking in people's doors in the early morning hours Home Invasions that's all that they are and not only that but they have turned Melbourne Australia into a war zone just like the young American Black persons are doing to Chicago il yes I'm of Black American decent but I'm older and wiser I have not been to prison 10,000 times as a matter of fact I've never ever been to prison at all but only a few of us can say that so I'm not totally against the people from central America they just need to take there time in coming over here not so many at such a short period of time maybe it should take about the next 10 to 20 years to get things going with them coming over here because after the American people seen those photos from them being on that Bridge huddled together like that well I'm just going to let your imagination run wild with that one ok so I've said all that I need to say and that's the way it is Sunday Oct 21st 2018.........


October 23, 2018

stfu Paul and especially you Jon B

Mopar joe

November 6, 2018

CR, you can just kiss it where the sun dont shine. Obammy let these wetbacks stay here illegally without having them use the immigration system like everyone else has to use. They get free food, housing, free everything while I have to work for my paycheck. Trump is trying to right a wrong and the democrats are wanting to stop him. Vote Democrat, stay poor. I am a registered Democrat but I am voting Republican. I voted for Trump . I couldn't bring myself to vote for that lying corrupt unethical lawyer who said she is for families but the 4 people murdered in benghazi and they had families. To sum it all up, illegal is illegal and those fence jumpers and their anchor babies have been abusing our system for way to long, they need to be sent back.


November 18, 2018

The racism and xenophobia displayed in some these comments would be merely comical if they weren't so pathetically uninformed and hateful. Like the White House, they ignore real facts and offer no substance or logic.


November 19, 2018

Let them come here provide a legal path to citizenship. The only problem is they are leaving a bad situation in central America and Africa possibly parts of Asia. They are entering a country if people who first the most do not want them here. They I fear will be exploited economically for years to come. Some will make it out become educated and prosperous productive American citizens and intermarry primarily white Americans. Most I fear will become a vast underclass. With very little education prospects and might turn to a life of crime as a way to get by economically. The food stamps hud housing and almost free medical care will be the norm for most but not all.

Brent Stewart

November 19, 2018

Great comment Paul. I loved something that Morgan Freeman had to say. When he was asked about being an "African American" he said I'm just an American. Leftists want to divide us so they can rule us. They want our Black Americans to identify as "Other" so that they can maintain divisions. Their Identity Politics is the very essence of divisiveness. American Men (and I mean MEN and not the soy boy Leftist snivelers) need to come together and put a stop to the current nonsense. When I say Men, I mean all real Men. Black, White, et al. Furthermore, women in goverment is proving to be a fucked up idea. They are the primary bleeding hearts that want to open our borders to the hoards of poor, uneducated wetbacks. Hey Leftist Pole Smokers, how many is enough. 100 million? Half a billion? These people to NOT increase OUR quality of life and I don't owe them "A Better Life". Hispanics control this hemisphere from our Southern Border to Punta Arenas. The control more than twice the resource rich land area as the entire U.S. If the fuckers can't improve their own lands, why the hell would we want them here. Our ancestors (both Black and White) carved this country out of a raw and unforgiving wilderness. The Central Americans have our modern technology and yet our incapable of duplicating what our forefathers accomplished with axes, picks, and shovels. Fuck them. Deport them and let them fend for themselves. Worry about our own infrastructure and our Black citizens and their communities.

Casey White

September 10, 2019

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February 13, 2020

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December 24, 2020

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March 31, 2022

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March 5, 2023

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