Businesses are bracing for the impact of the repeal of DACA, the Obama-era program that had allowed some 800,000 young people who had been brought to this country illegally as children to obtain work permits.
While the six-month phase out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will have effects across the country, North Carolina could be hit particularly hard. With more than 46,000 approved DACA beneficiaries, North Carolina ranks seventh in the country in the number of “Dreamers,” as the beneficiaries of the 2012 executive order are known.
Ricardo Velasquez, owner and founder of the law firm Velasquez & Associates in Raleigh, says that like young people in general, DACA beneficiaries “are distributed throughout the economy.” Velasquez said DACA recipients work in doctor’s offices, in law firms and at banks.
An online survey by the National Immigration Law Center and the Center for American Progress found that 87 percent of DACA beneficiaries were employed, with the majority working in education and health services, followed by wholesale and retail trade, business services and hospitality.
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DACA recipients must present a valid work permit when they apply for a job, but managers for large employers may never see that and would not know how many of their workers are affected by the repeal, Velasquez said.
“The HR person would know, and if you’re in a small organization the owner would know; but beyond that there’s no reason for anyone to know,” he said. “It’s never gonna come up and more than likely the beneficiaries are not gonna talk about that.”
Large employers may only realize after it is too late.
“I expect there’s a lot of supervisors who will go to work six months from now and discover they are missing valuable people,” Velasquez said.
It will not just be employers who are surprised, Velasquez added. “I really expect there to be people to be shocked how integrated these young folks are into the economy,” he said.
Canvas On Demand, a company in Raleigh that manufactures artwork and graphics, has both permanent and temporary workers who are DACA recipients, said Rene Ramirez, the company’s environmental health and safety manager. Ramirez said the company relied on DACA workers during the Christmas season, its busiest time.
The Center for American Progress also estimated that removing DACA workers could have more than a billion-dollar impact on North Carolina’s economy.
DACA recipients whose legal status expires on March 5 can renew for a two-year period if they apply by Oct. 5. If Congress fails to enact legislation, some DACA recipients could be deported beginning on March 6. Velasquez said others may be able to work as independent contractors.
“Right now you are able, anybody in the country whether you’re here illegally or not, you can always work as a contract employee, so for instance, the construction industry is dominated by people who are 1099,” Velasquez said, naming the IRS form that independent contractors must fill out. “It’s possible that business will hire individuals who were DACA recipients as independent contractors. If there is no new legislation, and employers wish to keep their old DACA recipients, then this is what they will have to do.”
Businesses, though, are not sure what they will do for current DACA recipients if DACA is replaced.
“We are following the news and we are following the coming events,” Ramirez said, “But we haven’t established a set direction.”