DACA, DREAMers & Immigrant Youth

By Hannah Daniel, Summer 2017 Outreach Intern at MRC’s Arizona office

Recent politics have made immigration policy the front and center of headlines and news bulletins. One buzzword that seems to keep coming up is “DACA” and it’s “Dreamers”, but many, especially those who do not live in cities with a large influx of immigrants fully understand who this really applies to. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It’s an Obama-era temporary protection from deportation and legal work authorization for immigrants who were brought into the country illegally under the age of sixteen since June 15 , 2007. The idea is that as they were too young to make the decision to migrate and often have only ever known a life in the U.S., they should have a fair chance at citizenship. Dreamers are a population that are supported under the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act. This program compliments DACA as it allows those who arrived as children to attend college. It provided a path to conditional resident status and later permanent residency upon attending higher education or serving in the military. Although it was never formally passed, in 2012 President Barack Obama created policy that prevented his administration from deporting immigrants who matched the DREAM Act’s criteria. Today, students who still identify as “DREAMers”, are those who are undocumented but pursue higher education.

MRC paralegal Axel Martinez attended Arizona State University and recalls a female classmate exclaiming “Dreamers si se puede!” (yes, we can) upon receiving her diploma. He says that the crowd went wild and many other graduates celebrated the achievement with her. That’s not surprising as Arizona has a history of the Dreamers fighting for the ability to attend school. Previous Governors of Arizona worked against the DACA program and policies like the Dream Act. Just this summer, Dreamers fought to keep their in-state tuition at Arizona’s Universities at meetings for the Board of Regents.

Because of the new Administration, the protections put in place for Dreamers could be at risk. In July 2017, Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin introduced the New Dream Act, with hopes that the bipartisan legislation would finally see its way into a law. This reboot of the old bill works with the DACA program and allows for protection from deportation and ways to obtain legal status. There is a large support for a long-term solution in the U.S., with a Morning Consult and Politico poll citing 78% of American voters support giving Dreamers the chance to stay permanently in America. With these changing times, its more than just a dream to allow these students a chance at citizenship.