Today is the 10th anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and it should feel monumental, but for many immigrants, the uncertainty today is greater than ever. DACA was created in 2012 when President Barack Obama took executive action to protect individuals who were brought into the United States as children without paperwork from the threat of deportation. Shortly after, those individuals were dubbed “Dreamers,” for the most part, people who are not responsible for their own undocumented status but are desperately hoping for a pathway to citizenship and a chance to continue their lives in the place they’ve called home since childhood.
Through the program, Dreamers were to be protected from deportation and permitted to obtain work permits, but would have to apply to renew their status every two years. The essential idea was that having DACA status would allow some immigrants to remain in the country legally until they could achieve citizenship status. President Joe Biden has attempted to preserve these protections, but his efforts have also been met with major opposition.
However well-intentioned Obama’s actions were, things have not gone smoothly. DACA has met roadblocks at every turn throughout the years, especially after former President Donald Trump took office in 2016. The program has helped thousands of families over the past ten years, but progress has been stalled largely due to opposition from conservatives in red states like Texas and practically the entire Trump administration. The claim? That President Obama never had the authority to issue these protections to Dreamers in the first place.
As recently as July 2021, a Texas judge ruled that DACA is not a lawful policy, and halted all first-time DACA requests. Since DACA was introduced, Congress has repeatedly failed to create a permanent and reasonable pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, and thanks to repeated challenges from Republicans that have ended up in court, more than 600,000 DACA recipients are now unsure of whether they will be able to remain in the country they were raised in and have built lives in. That’s not to mention the nearly two million immigrants who currently have no protections and still can’t legally work in this country.
The average DACA recipient is now in their late 20s and has been in the U.S. since childhood. They’ve been able to work and go to college with help from the program. Being deported now would not only drastically change their lives, but in many cases, it will alter the futures of their children, most of whom were born in the U.S., and could potentially be separated from their parents.
A decade ago, I was graduating from community college as an undocumented person. I felt really hopeless. #DACA turns 10 today and while it’s not a permanent solution and remains under attack, it allowed me a chance to pursue a field I never even thought I could be a part of.
— Carlos Aguilar (@Carlos_Film) June 15, 2022
Some, however, say the protections provided by DACA were never enough. “DACA has changed the lives of those who benefitted from it, but one thing has become clear: it is not enough, it was never enough. Our communities deserve full recognition into a society that benefits from their creativity, their labor, and their love,” reads a tweet from Raices Texas, a non-profit organization that offers legal services to immigrants.
#DACA was never enough.
It's been ten years since DACA was created to help hundreds of thousand of young people get a work permit and stop fearing deportation. pic.twitter.com/YygD3oyX8W
— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) June 15, 2022
“The biggest failure of DACA is its major instability,” Fernando Urbina, Chief of Staff of ImmigrationHelp.org, an organization that helps individuals prepare their DACA forms, tells HipLatina. “The program has been in flux under different administrations since its inception and this creates fear and concerns amongst DACA recipients,” he says. Ultimately, that leaves millions of immigrants at risk of being deported at any moment, with little to no recourse for maintaining the only lives they’ve ever known.
He goes on to add that a permanent solution is needed so that thousands of people aren’t at risk of being deported. DACA’s inability to provide protection to the many undocumented children who continue to arrive in the U.S. is a major failure of the program, Urbina believes.
On July 6, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to consider the aforementioned Texas lawsuit challenging DACA, and it’s anticipated that it will be a pivotal moment for Dreamers and that the decision will set the precedent for challenges to DACA going forward. But again, it’s action from Congress that’s needed and so its future remains uncertain considering the roadblocks the program has faced essentially since its launch.
“It is important for Congress to pass measures that both solidify protections for current Dreamers and also amplify protections for young immigrants not eligible for the program. Without moves from Congress, DACA recipients will remain in an unfortunate state of limbo,” Urbina says. He’s urging every citizen to call their representatives and demand they support immigration reform and suggests getting involved with or donating to non-profit organizations helping immigrants and joining marches fighting for change.