September 13, 2017 | New England Journal of Medicine
Dreams Deferred — The Public Health Consequences of Rescinding DACA
Atheendar S. Venkataramani, M.D., Ph.D., and Alexander C. Tsai, M.D., Ph.D.
September 13, 2017
After months of conflicting statements, President Donald Trump has announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a landmark immigration program introduced during the Obama administration, will be rescinded as of March 2018. The announcement was made in the face of threats by nine Republican state attorneys general (one has since withdrawn) to sue the Trump administration over what they perceived as the executive branch’s unconstitutional implementation and administration of immigration policy. Like many other elements of the administration’s immigration platform, the termination of DACA also appeared to be driven by a belief that rescinding economic benefits granted to undocumented immigrants would enhance economic opportunities for native-born people.
Since June 2012, when the program was established by executive order by President Barack Obama, DACA has provided freedom from deportation and access to work permits for young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States before 16 years of age. The program required current school attendance, completion of at least high school or high school equivalency certification (GED), or military service. Persons with significant criminal records were not eligible. To date, more than 800,000 people — predominantly from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, South Korea, and Honduras — have benefited from the program. Although the program did not provide a pathway to citizenship, it granted beneficiaries — known as “Dreamers” (after the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, a bill that has been introduced and reintroduced in various forms since 2001 but has failed to pass) — access to opportunities for socioeconomic advancement that might otherwise have been out of their reach.