Immigration rights advocates explain DACA and why it should matter to every U.S. citizen.
Nearly 800,000 immigrants are in an unknown limbo as a result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration axing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA, introduced by former president Barack Obama in 2012, provided two-year renewable permits for eligible undocumented immigrant youths to stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation. On Sept. 5, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions publicly announced the Trump administration will end Obama’s DACA executive action and instruct Congress to pass legislation similar to DACA.
Voice Latina spoke with two immigrant-rights advocates who highlighted the impact DACA has had for undocumented immigrants and the country.
Theo Oshiro (TO), deputy director for Make the Road New York: The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as the DACA program, is a crucial, crucial, program for immigrant youth across the country. 800,000 – the estimate is 800,000 people benefit from this program and really what it grants people is deferral from deportation, avoiding deportation and also work authorization.
Natalia Renta (NR), immigration attorney: It [Daca] was something that came from President Obama’s executive order. This wasn’t a law that was passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, this was just an executive action by Obama, that this was a memo that he issued saying, (paraphrasing) “I’m not going to enforce immigration law against you if you meet these criteria and if you apply to USCIS [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services], I’m just promising that I’m not going to deport you for two years,” that’s all DACA is.
TO: This program is crucial for immigrant community members, particularly those young people who benefit but also their family members and, really, communities as a whole who benefit kind of from the economic contribution, from the cultural and social contribution, of those 800,000 people.
NR: What has been incredible about this program is that it has given youth the ability to get a work authorization, the ability to get a social security number, the ability to get a driver’s license, and the ability to really be eligible to get certain loans to be able to put yourself through school, and get higher education, and get a better paying job, and be less susceptible to exploitation because of your undocumented status and to help support your family, so it’s been like this huge game changer for 800,000 people who have been recipients of this benefit.
They are just a fabric of everyday life and a fabric of our communities and, yes, anecdotally, we’ve seen people whose DACA has been a life changer. They’ve been able to get employment that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. They’ve been able to increase the amount of money they can get to support their families and to contribute to their communities and to contribute to the country. Anecdotally, it has, yes, I’ve seen people being able to buy cars or people being able to buy houses or people being able to go to graduate school, that none of this would’ve been possible but for having work authorization and having a Social Security number.
TO: It’s left to be seen what are the specific consequences and how they are done, but you know, potentially, it could mean that those 800,000 people could be targeted for deportation. They would almost certainly lose their work authorization and, more importantly, upend their lives, right? Imagine one day being able to work, to not be fearful of deportation from one day, to the next day – every day potentially being torn apart from your family and losing your job, and everything you’ve worked for over the last five years.