Fate of Dreamers uncertain as Trump and Congress clash over DACA and border wall

Daniela Sanchez/ Lariat

Daniela Sanchez/ Lariat

Updated: 09/28/2017

On September 5, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, on behalf of President Donald J. Trump, announced the suspension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. There are currently 788,000 people in the DACA program that could potentially lose their jobs, access to education and health care if Congress doesn’t pass legislation preserving the DACA provisions within the Trump administration’s six month deadline for the program’s termination.

President Obama created the DACA program in 2012 via executive action in order to provide temporary protection from deportation and work permits to American residents who entered the country illegally when they were children.

DACA eligibility only applies to people who arrived in the U.S. prior to June 15, 2017 before they turned 16 and have lived here for at least five years.

DACA participants are not eligible for welfare benefits or Obamacare. A Journal of General Internal Medicine study reported that undocumented immigrants actually provided a surplus of $35.1 billion to the Medicare Trust Fund between 2000 and 2011.

According to the study’s press release, “Unauthorized immigrants generated and average surplus of $316 per capita to the Trust Fund, while other Americans generated a deficit of $106 per capita.”

A recent national survey shows that the average DACA recipient is an employed 22 year old earning a salary of $17 an hour. A majority of DACA recipients are still students and 17 percent are pursuing an advanced degree.

report by the progressive advocacy group Center for American Progress and FWD.us estimates that an average of 30,000 workers could lose their jobs every month if the DACA program ends, costing the U.S. $460.3 billion in economic revenue over the next decade, with an additional loss to Medicare and Social Security contributions of $24.6 billion.

A recent report by the Cato Institute estimates that the fiscal cost of immediately deporting everyone in the DACA program would cost the federal government over $60 billion.

President Trump met with Democratic leaders last week indicating that the parameters for any deal to provide a way for DACA recipients to stay in the U.S. would have to include funding for a wall along the US-Mexico border.

“We are looking at allowing people to stay here. We are working with everybody,” Trump said. He added: “If we don’t have the wall, we are doing nothing.”

In a joint statement issued following the dinner with President Trump, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said, “While both sides agreed that the wall would not be any part of this agreement, the President made clear he intends to pursue it at a later time, and we made clear we would continue to oppose it.”

The border wall was Trump’s signature campaign promise. He had initially indicated that he would make Mexico cover 100% of the cost of building the wall.

Trump has since changed his position on the matter, at one point even threatening to shut down the U.S. government if Congress doesn’t allocate funds to pay for the walls construction, based on the assumption that the Mexican government will eventually pay the U.S. back for the costs.

At a recent rally in Phoenix, Trump said, “If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.”

Trump has a history of blaming illegal immigration, specifically from Mexico, as a major source of crime in the U.S. In a Trump Tweet from June 19, 2015 he wrote, “Druggies, drug dealers, rapists and killers are coming across the southern border. When will the U.S. get smart and stop this travesty?”

On August 27, 2017 Trump Tweeted, “With Mexico being one of the highest crime nations in the world, we must have THE WALL. Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other.”

Research has shown that immigrants, regardless of legal status, commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born U.S. citizens. In order to even be eligible for DACA, applicants cannot have a criminal record.

A statement released recently from Mexico’s foreign ministry read, “As the Mexican government has always stated, our country will not pay, under any circumstances, for a wall or physical barrier built on US territory along the Mexican border.”

Gov. Jerry Brown and California legislative leaders recently approved $30 million towards financial aid and legal services to assist people brought into the country illegally as children. California has the highest concentration of DACA recipients in the nation. $10 million of the funding is earmarked specifically for “Dreamers” who are state community college, California State University or University of California students.

All DACA and work permits will remain valid until their expiration date. New DACA applications are no longer accepted despite the fact that there are over 1.9 million people eligible for DACA in the United States. DACA issuances and work permits which are set to expire between now and March 5, 2018 must be submitted for renewal by Oct. 5, 2017.

Mission Asset Fund, with support from the Weingart Foundation, is providing $495 scholarships so that DACA recipients requiring financial aid may safely renew their status. The scholarship is open to community college, California State University and University of California students. A check made out to the Department of Homeland Security will be received within 48 hours to all approved applicants who apply for the grant at http://lc4daca.org/

The California Community College’s Chancellor’s Office has numerous resources for undocumented students. The American Association of Community Colleges has an advocacy tool to help you identify and communicate with your legislators. You can also visit http://weareheretostay.org/ for more information on how to help people affected by this recent decision and what you can do to take action now.


The California Endowment has announced that it is dedicating more than $1 million of its Fight For All Fund to help provide legal and financial assistance to Californians with DACA status with their renewals, as well as an outreach education program so that immigrants know where to turn for help. For more information, please visit www.health4allca.org

The Mission Assets Fund’s DACA Renewal Scholarship Fund has tripled to $3 million. 900 of the 5,000 scholarships submitted nationwide since Sept. 13 have come from California community college students.  There is still enough funding for an additional 1,000 applicants to apply for the renewal scholarship before the Sept. 29 deadline.