Celebrating DACA’s First Anniversary
Wendy Cervantes (Former Staff)Child Rights Children of Immigrants
Today marks the first year anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an initiative introduced by the Administration last summer which provides certain DREAM Act-eligible youth with a renewable two-year reprieve of deportation and the ability to obtain social security cards and work authorization. In just one year, the policy has yielded tremendous results, enabling hundreds of thousands of young people to escape the constant threat of deportation and start fulfilling their academic and career goals. In fact, over 500,000 young people have applied for DACA and over 400,000 have been approved in the past twelve months.
A new report released earlier this week by the Brookings Institution provides a profile of DACA recipients. The report reveals that DACA recipients represent a diverse pool of applicants from all over Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe, with the majority of applicants born in Mexico. The study also shows that DACA applicants are spread throughout the United States, with the most applicants in immigrant-heavy states like California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Florida. More than one-third of applicants were between the ages of 15 and 18 and more than half were under the age of 21, with nearly 75 percent of applicants residing in the U.S. for at least ten years and nearly one-third arriving in the U.S. prior to the age of 5.
Initial findings released today from the National UnDACAmented Research Project (NURP) also provide a deeper look at how DACA has impacted the lives of recipients based on national survey of over 1,402 beneficiaries. According to the study, approximately 60 percent of recipients have obtained employment, more than half have opened their first bank account, more than one third have obtained their first credit card, and over 60 percent have obtained a driver’s license. The vast majority of DACA recipients expressed their desire to apply for citizenship one day if provided the opportunity.
While the statistics speak volumes, it is certainly the stories of DACA recipients that best document the success of the program. It has been an inspiration to see so many friends, colleagues, mentees, and mentors finally have the opportunity to apply for a dream job, work within the halls of Congress, or open their own non-profit. One year following the DACA program, my mentee of the past four years graduated from college and since she had also recently received DACA, she was able to freely consider the possibilities offered by her degree in early education. She had worried that she would have to set her diploma aside and put her dreams on hold until the passage of immigration reform, like so many other young people have had to over the years. Thanks to DACA, she is looking at job postings instead.
Today certainly is a day for celebration, but it’s also important to remember that DACA is only a temporary solution. In order for DACA recipients and their families to have permanent relief and the opportunity to become full citizens, Congress must enact immigration reform that provides an inclusive path to citizenship. As the NURP study reveals, DACA recipients still experience significant levels of anxiety due to the continued threat of deportation facing their parents and family members, and approximately 14 percent have reported losing a parent or sibling to deportation. Without immigration reform, DACA recipients as well as 4.5 million U.S. citizen children will continue to fear losing a parent or family member due to heightened immigration enforcement measures.
So, as we celebrate, let’s also remember to keep up the fight.
To learn more about the DACA program and local resources for potential applicants please visit http://www.weownthedream.org/