Defend DACA photo by Kyle O'Leary

Giving Back: What is DACA and Why Should I Care?

Lifestyle
Defend DACA photo by Kyle O'Leary
Photo by Kyle O'Leary

Unless you're hiding under a rock, especially this past week, you've heard about DACA.  The news is reporting on it, your coworkers are discussing it, and it seems all your Facebook friends have opinions about it.  Earlier this summer, 10 state attorneys general wrote the President demanding the end of DACA.  The reason it's been in the news this week is because the letter gave Trump an ultimatum of this past Tuesday, September 5th. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration will rescind the DACA program and the administration is giving Congress six months before it's revoked. What is DACA?  Why is this such a big deal that your uncle, 11th grade English teacher, and dogsitter are sharing memes about it? I do not claim to be an expert regarding DACA, in fact I realized how little I knew when the news came out this week. Doing some research helped me understand it better; this post breaks down the basics about DACA and why we all need to be informed.

What is DACA?

DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It’s an immigration policy founded in 2012 by the Obama administration to allow certain illegal immigrants who entered the United States as minor to receive a renewable two-year deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. Almost 800,000 people (referred to as “DREAMers” or Dreamers after the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors AKA the DREAM Act) have been approved for the program.

To be eligible for DACA, applicants had to arrive in the US before age 16 and live here since June 15, 2007. They could not have been older than 30 when the policy was enacted in 2012.

Under DACA, DREAMers are able to apply to defer deportation and legally reside in the US for two years. After that, they can apply for a renewal. By March 31, 240,700 people had applied for renewal in the 2017 fiscal year and nearly 800,000 renewals had been approved over the life of the program.

What does the current administration plan to do with DACA?

The Trump administration says it's phasing out DACA in a way that will provide “minimum disruption.” What that entails:

  • Officials won't accept any new applications to the program, but for current DACA recipients, protections currently remain in effect.
  • Due to the costs associated with rejecting all pending initial requests, DACA applications received by September 5, 2017 will be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.
  • According to officials, work permits issued under DACA will be honored until they expire and anyone whose status is set to expire by March 5, 2018 has a month to apply for a new two-year permit, and those renewal applications will be processed.
  • Any requests to renew DACA and associated applications for EADs filed after October 5, 2017 will be rejected.

If Congress does not pass a measure protecting DACA recipients, nearly 300,000 people could begin to lose their status and be at risk for deportation in 2018 and an additional 320,000 would lose their status before August 2019.

Doesn’t DACA take jobs away from Americans?

There's no proof of this claim, and some economists show DACA actually benefits the US economy.  DACA recipients are relatively well educated, meaning they have the capacity to make the economy that much more productive. The vast majority of DACA recipients are employed, and almost half of them are currently in school, according to data collected in an online survey by the Center for American Progress. 36% of the respondents over the age of 25 reported that they had a Bachelor's degree or higher.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated this week that beneficiaries of the program ended up denying jobs, “To hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”  It is quite likely there are some DACA recipients who have jobs that native or naturalized workers might otherwise have. However, not only is the labor market tight for educated workers, geography also is a factor. If the DACA recipient leaves that job, the native or naturalized resident must be living in the same vicinity or be willing to relocate to get that open job. DACA recipients are heavily concentrated in a few states, like California and Texas, so this may hold true for states like that but may not be as real of an issue across most of the country.

I heard DACA recipients don’t pay taxes.

False.  DACA recipients are required to file taxes just like the rest of us.  I wonder if this rumor started because DREAMers don't have to pay the tax penalty for not having Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act.  But DREAMers don't have to pay the penalty because they're not even eligible for it! (source)  As an FYI, DREAMers aren't eligible for welfare either.

But DREAMers commit crimes and join gangs!

There is no evidence that DACA-eligible individuals commit crimes at a higher rate than natives. Trump recently said DACA led to an influx of people coming in across the border with many of them, “young people who would become members of violent gangs throughout our country, such as MS-13.” DACA protections are cancelled for anyone who is a threat to either public or national safety.  According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, about 1,500 people have had their deferral canceled due to a crime or gang-related activity or admission (source). That's less than 0.2% (not two percent, but two tenths of one percent) of the total number of people accepted into the program.

I’m not a DREAMer and don’t know anyone who is. This doesn’t affect me, right?

Wrong. If DACA ends, it means we will lose 800,000 people who have jobs, bought houses, pay taxes, started student loans, joined the military, and otherwise invested in America. Some of the estimated 280,000 beneficiaries who have attended college or graduate school have borrowed from Sallie Mae and Discover. According to “Open Letter from Leaders of American Industry,” 65% of DREAMers have purchased a car and 16% have purchased a home. These borrowers may now have to make loan payments without the right to work legally. That’s a lot of potentially defaulted mortgages and loans. But that’s just the start of it. If DACA ends, The US economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.

DACA Fact SheetIt's always easier to understand and feel empathy for people when you know their story. Define American is a non-profit media and culture organization that uses the power of story to transcend politics and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America.  If you don't know any DREAMers, and even if you do, I recommend you visit and read some of these true stories about immigrants Define American has also crafted this wonderful fact sheet about DACA.

How Can I Help #DefendDACA?

Contact members of Congress

Contact your local representatives and let them know you support DACA. If enough of us take action to put pressure on Congress, we can send a strong message of support for DACA and can very well save the program.  Yes, your one voice DOES make a difference; think if everyone who thinks their one call or email or letter didn't matter didn't send them… change happens when individuals are united. Here's a sample script for your emails, postcards, and letters to make it easy:

“[Name of Representative] I am contacting you in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. I strongly oppose any attempt to terminate DACA, which has helped over 800,000 undocumented immigrant youth access new opportunities in work and education. I urge you to do everything in your power to protect DACA and stand in solidarity with immigrant youth.”

If you're not sure who to call, the Dream Act Toolkit (a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund) provides a few key telephone numbers as well as an easy way to tweet those lawmakers.

FWD.us, a 501(c)(4) lobbying group focused on immigration reform also has a tool making it easy to call Congress.

Here To Stay has a great widget making it easy to tweet to Congress.

Start or Join a Campaign

United We Dream is the first and largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation. They are organizing grassroots campaigns powered by immigrants, people of color, and allies all across the country. Click this link to find one in your area or join one already in existence.

Support in Person

Here to Stay has a site that helps you find #DefendDACA events in your area.

Consider joining a local Indivisible group and connect with neighbors who also wish to protect DACA.

As Barack Obama stated in a recent Facebook post, “[DREAMers] were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they're undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver's license… Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn't threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us… Kicking them out won't lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone's taxes, or raise anybody's wages.”

9 Comments

  • Bethanne September 14, 2017

    Thank you posting this! Awesome round-up of information. I can’t imagine how anyone can be opposed to DACA.

    I’ve followed your blog for awhile now and one of my favorite things about it is that you include so much of your thoughts, like this DACA post but also including really all those really thorough posts about your style choices, why you decide to keep or not keep clothing items, etc. etc.

  • SeeThroughYou September 12, 2017

    DACA: At An African American’s Expense”.

    Literally every opportunity & dollar sucked down by a Non-Citizen residing here via some quasi-legal immigration scheme is STOLEN from African Americans. Even Birthright Citizenship has been hijacked by foreigners when it was created to secure the rights of Freed Slaves racist state lawmakers! Th 14th Amendment was never intended to magically confer citizenship on anyone who can sneak into the USA or overstay their visa for 9 months.

    Colleges are full of peeps who got here by breaking the law and they are treated better & given more access to programs, assistance and funding that black people. Why?

    • Bethanne September 14, 2017

      These are separate issues. We ABSOLUTELY need to do a much better job of increasing black Americans’ access to jobs, education, and assistance. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t ALSO provide ways for innocent people who were brought to this country as children to have jobs, education, and assistance. DACA is one program targeted specifically at people who immigrated as children. There are also programs, organizations, etc. that are targeted specifically at black Americans. WE NEED MORE SUPPORT FOR BOTH.

  • Linda B September 10, 2017

    Allie, you just rose yet another notch up on my list of terrific people, because you’ve posted this. (You’ve been on that list for years, in fact.) DACA is truly a no-brainer, if anyone just thinks about the fact that these young folks are as American as you or me, because they live, work, contribute to our society–and as mentioned, many if not most don’t even know their countries of origin, or the language there–because they’ve been here the vast majority of their lives. They had no say in coming to this country, but we are now lucky to have them!

  • SunDapple September 10, 2017

    I can’t thank you enough for this piece. Thank you for doing the research and sharing, but more importantly, for the caring!

  • GlamorousandGeeky September 10, 2017

    Thanks for sharing this. So many people have huge misconceptions about a lot of dreamers . I think it so wrong to punish those who didn’t have a choice. They were kids! They pay taxes like normal us citizens. Let them stay.

  • Anamarie September 10, 2017

    Thank you, Allie, for this thorough post about DACA. If more people understood the details, I would like to think they would support the program. These young adults had to report to the government and admit they were here illlegally. They had to provide all their contact information, remain law-abiding, renew their status every two years and pay a fee. The most important fact about DACA that people don’t understand is that it is not amnesty or a path to citizenship – in effect it’s deportation deferral, two years at a time. I sincerely hope Congress takes this opportunity to create legislation to give the Dreamers a permanent place in our society.

  • Lee4 September 10, 2017

    Thanks so much for writing this! Your passion for social justice is yet another reason why I love your blog. It’s sad how many people don’t know the facts on DACA & how they are being manipulated by certain politicians through false information.

  • Lisa September 10, 2017

    Awesome post Thank you for the info. Especially on who to contact.

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