Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is an Obama-era program that provides legal immigration status and work authorization for hundreds of thousands of people. President Trump ended the program in 2017 by having the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) terminate it.
During President Obama’s term, the administration recognized that the now-grown-up babies and children (whose undocumented parents brought them to the United States):
- Had no straightforward, legal immigration options.
- Could not afford the expense of higher education (or possibly even gain admission given their lack of status).
- Could not seek employment or obtain insurance or a license to drive.
DACA allowed these children to have a future in their new country and contribute to the American economy in many ways—legally. Since they have been here since childhood, they know no other country.
America is their home.
U.S. Medical Providers Could Lose Thousands of Professionals
Almost 700,000 DACA recipients live in the U.S. now. A significant percentage of them work in healthcare, including many on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. At a time when the U.S. already had a severe shortage of healthcare workers, including primary care physicians, many DACA recipients provide much-needed medical and supporting services.
After the Trump administration ended DACA in 2017, ongoing litigation allowed existing DACA recipients to remain in the U.S. On June 18, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the legality of the DACA program itself, and allowed it to remain available to eligible applicants.
Unfortunately, the Court stated that the Administration does have the authority to end the program; it just must do so properly and follow the rules in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). President Trump has vowed to end the program and undoubtedly, his aides have started to research how to undo it. Yet, with the upcoming election in November, no one knows whether they will attempt it or not before then.
The Public Supports DACA
Also, it’s important to note that despite the Supreme Court’s Order to reinstate the program and accept new DACA applications, and that a joint Washington Post-ABC poll shows 86% of Americans support the DACA program, USCIS is doing nothing with the applications. USCIS has been stalling and sidelining applications and failing to cash checks for filing fees, despite the Order to reinstate the program. So, a second round of lawsuits may be forthcoming to force the administration to accept and adjudicate the new applications and comply with the Supreme Court’s Order. As of now, USCIS is bound by procedures in place before President Trump ended the DACA program:
- Current DACA holders can renew their status.
- Expired DACA holders can renew their status if it has been expired less than one year.
- Expired DACA holders can file a new application if their status expired over one year ago.
- Terminated DACA holders can file a new application if DHS previously terminated their status.
- People who became eligible to file for DACA after DHS terminated the program may now file a first application for DACA.
- DHS must process advance parole (travel documents) for DACA holders in accordance with the 2012 program rules.
Should the administration eventually legally end the DACA program under the APA, it is possible that hundreds of thousands of people who have known no country except America as home, and who have contributed immensely to myriad industries in the United States, could be deported. The Minnesota healthcare industry could lose almost 3,500 medical professionals. According to The Cato Institute, based on 2018 survey data, over 12 percent of our medical professionals are foreign born. An estimated 3,500 are likely in DACA status or unlawfully present in the U.S.
Given that we already face a healthcare provider shortage in Minnesota, especially in rural and remote areas, it is difficult to fathom losing any medical professionals let alone 3,500 of them. These foreign-born medical professionals include physicians, surgeons, physician assistants, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, vocational nurses, nursing assistants, nurse anesthetists, paramedics, medical assistants, phlebotomists, and respiratory therapists. Not counted among workers in the medical field are janitors, non-professionals working in hospitals and nursing homes like food service workers and dieticians, and other employees who are essential to keeping our healthcare system fully functioning.
It’s very likely that only Congress can craft a permanent, legislative solution to help the DACA kids. Should the DACA program be terminated, every industry will feel the effect of the subsequent mass deportation effort, including and especially healthcare when we need every additional worker we can find during our present pandemic.