DACA: Should your brand take a stand?

Last week I gave a presentation to the WOMMA Influencer & Advocacy Marketing Council on DACA and Brand Activism. It was an opportunity to give members an overview of what DACA is and what the implications are to taking a stand.

Established by the Obama administration in 2012, DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an American immigration policy that allows some individuals (called Dreamers after the Dream Act, the name of the legislation), who entered the country as children, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit.

After the Trump administration announced that they would rescind DACA, the policy made (and continues to make) headlines including news about the fate of Dreamers and what the new DACA law and broader immigration reform could look like. In addition, an army of DACA supporters uniting to advocate for the Dreamers continues to generate buzz across the country. Some of the country’s leading brands have also taken a stand. In fact, to date over 800 companies have made a pledge to stand with Dreamers.

Brands and senior leadership are looking at DACA from two lenses, from a brand activism point of view and from a business imperative point of view.

From a brand activism point of view, DACA is being viewed less like a political issue and more like a human rights issue. Why? Because the Dreamers are young people who did not decide on their own to come into the country illegally or overstay. In other words, those who support Dreamers believe that young people should not have to pay for the decision made by someone else in their family. Holly Baxter, a journalist from The Independent, wrote the below quote which, although referencing another very different policy in Britain, could very well be referenced for those supporting DACA:

“… children are not bargaining chips, or punching bags, or commodities to be devalued in order to punish the owner. They are human beings, with the right to be seen as individuals and the right not to be biblically stamped with the sins of their fathers. Those fundamental beliefs underpin the existence of … our benefits system and our state education system.”

From a business imperative point of view, DACA is being viewed like other non-permanent work visas – including the H-1B and L-1, which are temporary work visas granted to a wide range of professionals based on a wide range of criteria. These visas allow U.S. companies to hire the very best talent from around the world. Many DACA beneficiaries have applied and received work authorization documents that are valid for a few years, enabling them to work legally in the U.S. and pay income taxes. This is different from other undocumented immigrants who do not have valid work permits. In other words, the private sector is looking at DACA as a risk to their talent pool. If DACA is rescinded, what will happen to other temporary work visas? Rescinding non permanent work permits restricts the private sector’s competitiveness both as individual business entities as well as a collective business community on the world stage.

As you analyze your brand’s stance vis a vis DACA, here are the steps and considerations that are important to analyze:

Risk to the Brand: With 70% of Republican voters in strong support of DACA, the backlash from the larger U.S population and consumer base is considerably less than taking a stand for other parts of immigration reform. Nevertheless, risk exists. It’s important to look at your consumer base and your history of supporting political initiatives to determine what the risks and opportunities are.

Your Consumer Base: The majority of DACA recipients are Hispanic. If your employee and consumer base is largely Hispanic, you will want to evaluate the risks of not taking a stand and what that says to your base. And it’s not only the Hispanic segment that’s closely monitoring your decision, but also a larger millennial population that is looking to companies to take a stand for what they consider is right and just.

Decision Making Committee: The decision-making committee should not only be made up of senior leadership including the communications team, but also regional leadership. Because of their local expertise, regional leaders will be able to provide a more precise sense of how DACA affects the populations they service on the ground, in market. Will it create a backlash at the local level? Have they seen more conservative populations take a stand against the brand in the past because of its involvement in a political issue? These are the types of questions local leaders are better suited to respond to.

Steps to Take: If your decision is to stand up for DACA, your next step is to determine your level of participation. A larger B2C communications initiative is not always necessary. While some organizations have taken a more vocal approach by lobbying in D.C. and providing their point of view on the rescindment of the program to the press, others have pledged to stand with Dreamers by signing the open letter written by business leaders and entrepreneurs of FWD.US. Companies including Verizon, Google, Target and Facebook have signed the letter to Congress asking for a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers. This has given leadership and corporate communications teams across the country assurance that they are among the most prominent companies in the U.S. who are taking a stand. In fact, there are brands that have historically stayed clear of taking political sides, that are taking one now.

DACA will continue to make headlines in 2017 and into 2018. The private sector’s voice is being heard loud and clear. Some consider it being on the right side of history, while others are looking at it as a business imperative. Regardless of the objective, it is important to develop a strategy to address what is one of the most contentious parts of our country’s current immigration policies.

Additional Background:

Who is eligible for DACA relief?

  • To qualify for DACA, applicants had to meet the following requirements:
  • Came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday
  • Lived continuously in the U.S. since June 15, 2007
  • Were under 31 years of age on June 15, 2012
  • Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012 and at the time they applied
  • Have completed high school or a GED, been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed forces, or enrolled in school
  • Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor, or more than three misdemeanors of any kind

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