It’s been nearly eight years since then-President Barack Obama introduced
the policy in the Summer of 2012. But the future is still uncertain for DACA
and the “Dreamers” (this name derived from the 2001 DREAM Act, which aimed to
grant lawful presence and employment opportunities to young immigrants residing
in the U.S. unlawfully after being brought in by their parents).
In September 2017, the Trump administration announced its decision to
put an end to DACA entirely, turning away new applicants while permitting those
already authorized to work under DACA to maintain their temporary status until
their two-year DACA status expired.
DACA’s termination, however, has been on hold as multiple courts have debated
whether the move to cease the program was unlawful. While new applicants have
remained barred from applying to DACA, the legal battles have given hundreds of
thousands of existing DACA holders the chance to renew their status for another
two year period.
Now, as the calendar turns to a new year, DACA’s fate is in the hands
of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The highest court in the land finds itself tasked with determining
whether DACA was illegally terminated; a decision is expected in the first half
In the meantime, employers have much to consider where DACA is concerned—what
they must know before hiring Dreamers, how much longer they might be able to,
and not least of all, what these individuals can bring to the workforce.
There may be hope for Dreamers
Regardless of how the Supreme Court eventually rules on
DACA, all is not lost for organizations seeking to hire Dreamers, says Candy Marshall,
president of TheDream.US, a non-partisan
national scholarship program for Dreamers, which provides an online
fact sheet for employers hiring Dreamers.
“Even if the court rules that the Trump administration
lawfully rescinded DACA, employers can still hire and continue to employ people
with current employment authorization documents, i.e., work permit,” says
“These permits are valid until they expire, and most
DACA holders have been renewing their DACA and work permits early. These
permits won’t expire until two years after they were issued.”
In that time frame, Dreamers will be able to legally
work, Marshall says, pointing out that it’s unlawful to refuse to hire a DACA
recipient on the grounds that his or her work permit may expire.
“In that time, there’s also the possibility that
Congress will provide permanent protections or that a DACA holder will have
another path to permanent residency,” says Marshall.
A number of companies—including some high-profile
ones—have already made these DACA recipients an integral part of their
workforces. In fact, according to The Dream.US, DACA recipients work at 72% of
the top 25 Fortune 500 companies.
In October 2019, a group of 143 companies and business
associations that included The National Retail Federation, the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce, Amazon, Google, and Intel filed an amicus
brief spelling out Dreamers’ many contributions to these and other
“Prior to DACA, these young people—who have obtained at
least a high school degree and, in many cases, have finished college and
graduate school—would have been unable to obtain work authorization, and
therefore unable to put their education and skills to productive use,” the brief
“DACA changed that, and, as a result, over 90% of
Dreamers are employed in virtually every sector of the economy.” (According to the
Center for America Progress, 16,000 DACA recipients work in education,
including thousands of K-12 teachers, with another 27,000 employed in the
healthcare sector, including as doctors and nurses.)
The brief also offered a look at the dire consequences
of eliminating DACA.
Ending the program would “inflict serious harm on U.S.
companies, all workers, and the American economy as a whole. Companies will
lose valued employees. Workers will lose employers and co-workers. Our national
GDP will lose up to $460.3 billion, and tax revenues will be reduced by
approximately $90 billion over the next decade.”
Accessing the hidden talent pool
In 2019, tech titan Apple felt compelled to share what Dreamers have
brought to its organization, and how putting an end to DACA would affect the
On the same day SCOTUS justices received the aforementioned brief, Apple
filed its own amicus
brief with the court, voicing the company’s support for DACA.
As Apple CEO Tim Cook and Senior Vice President of Retail and People
Deirdre O’Brien point out in the 20-page document, Apple “employs a diverse
workforce of over 90,000 employees in the United States alone.”
Among them, 443 are Dreamers, who came to the States from more than 25
different countries on four continents.
“We did not hire them out of kindness or charity,” the brief notes. “We
did it because Dreamers embody Apple’s innovation strategy.”
The brief provides examples of how Dreamers have positively affected
Apple, such as “W.V.,” who was brought to the U.S. as an eight-year-old by his
Hired as a contractor, W.V. was offered a full-time position at Apple as
a maps analyst. His supervisor describes him as “an indispensable part of my
group,” and worries that he would be unable to find a replacement with W.V.’s
unique abilities should he be forced to leave the U.S.
Employees like W.V. represent one of just many different groups
comprising the broader—and often untapped—talent pool that research by the
Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) research shows employers must
access in order to thrive.
In a 2019 survey, only 14% of the nearly 550 respondents said their
organizations currently have the talent they need to successfully achieve its
objectives over the next three years.
In a September 2019 blog
post, Lorrie Lykins, managing editor and vice president of research at
i4cp, looked at how the definition of the ready talent pool is evolving in many
organizations in meaningful ways.
“This includes looking more closely at groups they previously might not
have focused resources on, such as former employees, older workers, people with
disabilities, and candidates who were not hired the first time they applied,”
Circumstances have made Dreamers—an often-overlooked part of the talent
pool—an especially motivated, resilient, and driven cohort, says Marshall.
“Their families gave up everything to get them to a country where they
could get a college education and, in turn, they have an extraordinary sense of
responsibility to use their education to improve the well-being of their
families, communities, and society as a whole. They are innately
entrepreneurial, often bilingual, and come from the very communities that
employers see as part of their growth markets.”