Higher Education and Immigration

The Economic and Social Imperative of Preserving DACA

In a resounding demonstration of unity and concern for the nation's future, over 150 higher education institutions have rallied behind the Biden administration's effort to safeguard the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This collective, known as the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, emphasizes the critical role DACA recipients play in the American economy and the dire consequences of potentially ending the program.

DACA recipients, often brought to the U.S. as children, have leveraged the program's protections to achieve remarkable academic and professional success, contributing significantly to sectors where talent is desperately needed, such as healthcare and education. With their unique skills, including bilingual and multilingual capabilities, these individuals are not just participants in the American economy; they are integral to its growth and sustainability, collectively paying an estimated $9.4 billion in taxes annually.

The potential cessation of DACA threatens not only the personal dreams and achievements of these individuals but also the broader economic well-being of the United States. A 'brain drain' scenario looms large, where the country risks losing a cohort of skilled labor to international shores, a move that could decimate innovation and productivity in critical industries.

Moreover, the arguments presented by the alliance underscore the pragmatic and moral imperatives of DACA. The program does not merely serve an economic function; it embodies the promise of social mobility and the American dream, allowing recipients to attain higher salaries, secure health insurance, and contribute to some of the nation's most innovative companies, including tech giants like Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft.

Contrary to the claims of the program's challengers, who argue that DACA imposes financial burdens on states and incentivizes illegal immigration, the alliance and supporting amici, including 22 Democratic states and nearly 60 leading companies, highlight the invaluable contributions of DACA recipients to their communities and the nation at large. These individuals serve as first responders, healthcare workers, teachers, and more, bolstering the economy and enriching the social fabric of the United States.

The potential economic repercussions of ending DACA are stark, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimating a loss exceeding $400 billion over the next two decades. This figure, coupled with the current labor shortages in healthcare and education, paints a grim picture of the future should DACA protections be withdrawn.

The collective voice of academia, business, and state governments supporting DACA sends a clear message about the program's value to the American economy and society. It highlights the necessity of upholding the principles of opportunity and inclusivity that define the American experience. As the legal battle over DACA continues, it is crucial to recognize the program's role not just in the lives of its recipients but in the continued prosperity and dynamism of the nation.

The case of State of Texas v. USA, now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, is more than a legal dispute; it is a pivotal moment for U.S. immigration policy and the country's economic and social future. The outcome will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications, making the preservation of DACA an imperative for all who value the contributions of immigrants to America's success.


Rae Ann Varona, "Higher Ed Alliance Says Ending DACA Will Decimate Economy," Law360, February 1, 2024.

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