Ending DACA Would Have Disproportionate Effect On California, Home To More DREAM-ers Than Any Other State
More than 750,000 young immigrants have received work authorization and deportation relief through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program since 2012, when it was implemented through an executive order by then-President Barack Obama. The future of the program and the fate of the DREAM-ers (as participants are known) has hung in the balance since November when President Trump was elected. Any changes to the DACA program would have an outsize effect on California; there are more DREAM-ers living in California than any other state in the nation.
Trump had pledged to "immediately" end the program while on the campaign trail, but he changed his tune slightly not long after taking office, saying that DREAM-ers "shouldn't be very worried" because he was "looking at it with great heart." In mid-June, the Department of Homeland Security issued new guidance about DACA that Politico characterized as the administration's "most explicit promise to date that so-called Dreamers can keep their permission to work legally in the U.S."
Despite those assurances, the precarious future of the program was back in national headlines on Wednesday, after Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that the administration couldn't commit to defending the program from legal challenges, which could put it in serious jeopardy.
“This is what [Kelly is] being told by different attorneys, that if it goes to court it might not survive,” DHS spokesman David Lapan told the Washington Post after the meeting.
"I think we have to prepare for the worst and get ready to fight mass deportation," Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) said in a statement issued Wednesday. Gutiérrez was among the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in Wednesday's meeting with Kelly. "We showed up at airports to fight the Muslim and Refugee Ban and now DREAMers and people who have lived here legally for decades with TPS [Temporary Protective Status] are in imminent danger," he continued.
"Ending this program would have an outsize effect on California, as more than a quarter of DACA grantees live in our state," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said during a press call on Wednesday afternoon. "That’s more than 200,000 young people who are working and contributing to our economy, buying their first car or their first home, and making their community a better place to live," Becerra continued, pledging to "do everything in my power as Attorney General for the state of California to defend DACA and the young people who make countless contributions to our state and country."
According to the state attorney general, California would also lose more than a billion dollars in turnover costs (associated with losing trained and qualified workers and being forced to re-hire for those positions) if DACA is eliminated. California overwhelmingly leads the nation in DACA recipients, housing almost 100,000 more DREAM-ers than Texas, according to research published by the Pew Center in January. Texas is home to the nation's second largest concentration of DACA recipients.