What Does Trump Action to “Unwind” DACA Mean for Horticulture?

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On September 25, the Trump administration announced that it will rescind the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, phasing it out over the next six months. Administration officials emphasized that this approach allows Congress an opportunity to resolve the fate of DACA recipients. The DACA program allowed qualifying undocumented individuals brought to the U.S. as children to obtain relief from deportation and the opportunity to acquire temporary authorization to work in the U.S.

Nearly 800,000 individuals have received protection from deportation under the program. An estimated 89% of those individuals are in the workforce. While only a small percentage are believed to be employed in agriculture and horticulture, through many conversations with employers we know that some DACA recipients are key employees. Absent a longer term resolution, these individuals will no longer be legally employable when their employment authorization documents expire.

There is widespread sympathy for the plight of the “dreamers” as they have become known. So no surprise, the announcement was swiftly met with a firestorm of criticism, including from the business and higher education communities and some Republican Members of Congress. Economists were also quick to rebut Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ specious claim that DACA recipients have deprived hundreds of thousands of Americans from jobs. Others defended that the administration’s “unwind” approach was preferable to leaving the program vulnerable to a court challenge threated by the attorneys general of about 10 states, led by Texas.

Key technical details of how the program will be phased out can be found in a Department of Homeland Security memorandum. The big looming question is this: will the announced action finally serve as a catalyst that prompts Congress to address DACA and perhaps other long-deferred elements of immigration reform? 

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