Cracks Starting to Show in DACA Program for Young Undocumented Immigrants

Originally published on Colorlines, this article was written by Fi2W editor Von Diaz.

Last year Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA emerged as a long-awaited saving grace for undocumented youth or so-called DREAMers who were brought to the United States as children or teenagers. When DACA went into effect last August it offered them a temporary reprieve from deportation, authorization to work and the ability to get a temporary social security card and drivers license.

But a year into the program, DACA is starting to show weaknesses. And since immigration reform will almost certainly not pass this year, it’s possible the earliest recipients of DACA could time out of the two-year program before a more permanent solution is in place.

Immigration attorneys say that the number of DACA applications have stalled in recent months, suggesting that the initial flurry of applications and approvals was temporary. Perhaps more significant, in some cases DACA is not accomplishing its primary goal—to suspend deportation and provide job opportunities for undocumented youth—because many DREAMers find the application cost and the strict requirements prohibitive. In order to qualify for DACA you must be 30 or younger; have arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and resided here continuously since 2007; have a clean criminal record; and have or be pursuing a high school diploma or GED.

Studies show that the program truly is a Band-Aid approach that barely addresses the majority of eligible recipients. The Migration Policy Institute points out that nearly half of the undocumented immigrants believed to be eligible for DACA do not meet the educational requirements, and that there are 392,000 young people who are about to turn 16 and thus come of age for DACA who are not currently being counted. The Brookings Institution also found that there are disparities between the proportion of applicants from certain countries of origin and the nationalities reflected in the pool of recipients. Mexican immigrants make up the lion’s share of applicants at approximately 75 percent, but only a little over half of those accepted are Mexican.

DACA is also creating fissures among undocumented youth according to some DREAMers, producing a rift among those at differing levels of the application process, and between those who choose not to apply.

Continue reading this article on Colorlines as Von Diaz reports on three DREAMers with very different experiences with the DACA program.

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation and the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation.

AboutVon Diaz
Von Diaz is a writer and radio producer based in New York City. She is a self-taught cook who explores Puerto Rican food, culture, and identity through memoir and multimedia. Her work has been featured on NPR, American Public Media, StoryCorps, WNYC, PRI’s The World, BuzzFeed, Colorlines, and Feet in 2 Worlds. Von has an M.A. in journalism and Latin American and Caribbean studies from New York University. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, she earned a B.A. in Women’s Studies and focused her research on women in Latin America. She is a currently a producer at StoryCorps, and previously worked in community advocacy and communications for nonprofits focused on women, children, art, and Latino culture.