I didn’t know what DACA was until very recently when I met someone who told me about it and how it impacted his life. I had heard of DREAMers in passing while listening to the news but never did the research to find out details. It wasn’t until I met someone directly impacted by it that I decided to dig a little deeper. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was a program first established as an Executive Action by President Obama in 2012. These individuals often are referred to as DREAMers. It was a new policy that allowed deferred action for certain undocumented individuals who came into the United States as children. The current estimate is that there are 750,000 DREAMers with over 645,000 of them that have work permits allowing them to legally work in the U.S. and contribute to making our economy and communities stronger. According to FWD.us, 2 in 5 DACA recipients have a family member that is a U.S. citizen. Many of the DREAMers are students working to obtain an education in the United States. DACA serves as a way out of deportation. They’re ordinary people trying to make a living in this great country, yet, with no direct pathway to obtaining legal citizenship. According to the Department of Homeland Security, to qualify for the DACA program:
- You must be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012.
- You must have come to the United States before you turned 16 and must have resided in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007.
- You must currently be in school or have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
- And you must not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
DACA participants go through intense screening for both the applicant and renewal process. Background checks, fingerprints, and extensive fees are all required for applicants to be able to be cleared. Some would argue that the process for DACA participants, most of which are students, is more grueling than the average individual applying for a work visa. Obama’s intentions were to make sure we didn’t deport hardworking people, students, friends, anyone that works hard towards contributing to our nation. However, the DACA program is still somewhat problematic because it does not really resolve the issue of legality. You do not get permanent resident status or citizenship from the program. If you get denied for the application or renewal process, there’s a good chance ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) might be knocking on your door. As well-intentioned as Obama was, DACA is problematic to say the least. He discussed protecting the DREAMers under the new administration with President Trump. President Trump has gone on record saying he feels bad for these “kids” and finds it difficult to take any sort of action against them. Unfortunately, feeling bad isn’t enough. With the increase in ICE crackdowns in major cities across the United States, it’s become abundantly clear that “bad hombres” aren’t the only ones being deported. There have been numerous accounts of DACA students being detained by ICE across the United States. Just recently, a woman named Daniela Vargas, who identifies as a DREAMer, was arrested after she made a speech in Missouri about immigration. Vargas was being held without bail and detained by ICE as she spoke out against other family members who were also facing deportation. Although Vargas was eventually released, not all are as fortunate. With the Trump administration switching up policies day after day, there is nothing to say that the DACA program may not be eliminated. ICE crackdowns have become significantly worse and federal immigration judges are swamped with an overload of cases seeking for immigration relief for these students.
DACA participants go through intense screening for both the applicant and renewal process.
When I met the person who introduced me to the DACA program, I wasn’t sure why he was at such a risk. I kept telling myself that there was no way ICE would come for him. There were other “bad hombres” to catch, so why go after individuals who just want the American dream like everyone else. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that and this individual’s story kept me up at night. Actually, it kept me up for many nights. All I wanted to do was help, but my efforts felt limited and in vain. PLEASE NOTE: if you are applying to the program or renewing your application, you could end up putting yourself at risk by providing immigration authorities information about your status.
Although the current program remains untouched by the current administration, it is still at high risk. If you or anyone you know is a participant of the DACA program, know that they, too, have rights. It’s vital that you get in touch with an immigration attorney or a Board of Immigration Appeals. If you have DACA, it is also recommended that you do not travel outside of the United States at this time.
Moreover, if you’re like me and are sympathetic to the cause, please call your representatives. Fight for your neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens. It takes two minutes to have your voice heard and, trust me, it makes an impact. I know I called. Will you?