President Trump’s decision Tuesday to scrap an Obama-era program allowing young undocumented immigrants to work in the United States would fall most heavily on the hospitality, retail and construction industries, which together employ nearly half of the 1.3 million immigrants initially eligible for protection, according to an analysis by New American Economy, a national business coalition.
The announcement that the Trump administration would phase out the five-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program jeopardizes the livelihoods of tens of thousands of cooks, waiters, cashiers, salespeople and construction workers, the analysis found.
The impact will also be felt across tech, health care and education — where many of the DACA-eligible immigrants who are college educated work as software developers, nurses and teachers.
Of the DACA-eligible immigrants over 21 years old, 12 percent have bachelor’s degrees, 3 percent have advanced degrees, 84 percent have completed high school and some college, and 2 percent did not graduate from high school.
New American Economy, a national business coalition founded by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg to advocate for immigration reform, conducted the analysis for The Washington Post using census data.
“People have a very specific image in their mind of who an undocumented immigrant is, but the reality is that 'dreamers,' who are American in every sense of the word except the legal one, are working in every industry in every community,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of New American Economy.
In the hours following the Trump administration’s announcement, some executives reassured employees who are DACA recipients, saying the companies had no plans to fire them and would offer legal protection.
One multinational corporation that declined to be named said it offered employees the opportunity to be transferred to other countries — but its workers wanted to stay in the United States where they have made lives for themselves and their families. The company did not want to publicize the transfer option because it was afraid that doing so would take the urgency out of congressional action.
The Trump administration said it would wait six months to begin enforcing Tuesday’s action, giving Congress time to agree on a legislative solution. Current DACA recipients would not be impacted until March 5, 2018, the White House said.
“I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act,” Trump said in a statement Tuesday.
Trump said he decided to end DACA after 10 states threatened to sue the federal government over the constitutionality of the program. He said that he would gradually wind down the program over a period of two years.
“While new applications for work permits will not be accepted, all existing work permits will be honored until their date of expiration up to two full years from today,” Trump said. “Furthermore, applications already in the pipeline will be processed, as will renewal applications for those facing near-term expiration.”
Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, said Tuesday that while he believes Congress should now prioritize DACA over tax reform, Microsoft should be prepared for the possibility that Congress will not act in the next six months.
He said Microsoft is committed to the 39 known dreamers employed by the company and would “vigorously defend” their legal rights.
“If Congress fails to act, our company will exercise its legal rights properly to help protect our employees,” Smith wrote in a blog post. “If the government seeks to deport any one of them, we will provide and pay for their legal counsel. We will also file an amicus brief and explore whether we can directly intervene in any such case. In short, if dreamers who are our employees are in court, we will be by their side.”
Apple chief executive Tim Cook sent out a companywide email, obtained by The Washington Post, following Tuesday’s announcement saying that Apple would make immigration lawyers available to its 250 dreamer employees.
Cook said he received several notes over the weekend from these employees, some of whom arrived in the country as 2-year-olds. They were born in Canada, Mexico, Kenya and Mongolia, were educated in American colleges, and now work for Apple in 28 states — in its retail stores, as engineers, and in research and development.
“I want to assure you that Apple will work with members of Congress from both parties to advocate for a legislative solution that provides permanent protections for all the dreamers in our country,” Cook wrote.
Cook and Smith were among the more than 500 executives who recently signed onto a FWD.us petition asking Trump and Congress to preserve DACA’s provisions. Some companies joined Tuesday morning as the Trump administration ended the program.
Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, said he expects chief executives to continue to weigh in on the issue, meeting with members of Congress and holding roundtables with DACA recipients. But he said he feared that if Congress does not come up with a legislative fix that the government would begin deporting large numbers of dreamers.
The average DACA recipient is 26 years old, he said. More than 80 percent are from Mexico, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Other top countries of origin are El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, South Korea, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and the Philippines.
The majority live in five states: California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.