Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – a Look Back

It’s been nine months since the Deferred Action for Childhood Dreamers policy was implemented.  How many applicants were there? How did DACA change the lives of the applicants?  Here’s a look back during these tumultuous nine months: Prior to the announcement of the DACA policy by USCIS, these young individuals would have continued to live in the shadows of this country, without the ability to legally work, drive a vehicle or practice normal day-to-day routines without the threat of deportation.   For individuals who have been granted a relief through DACA, what’s changed?  What were some of the opportunities that opened up for young folks in this country? USCIS approved this many number of DACA cases:

Mid-Month ApplicationsApproved
September 1,687
October 28,106
November 47,909
December 48,075
January 50,079
February 45,528
March 40,687
April 29,799

Driving

For one thing, the ability to register or apply for a driver’s license (in most states) was a critical step for many to work and attend school or training.  According to the National Immigration Law Center, only two states, Arizona and Nebraska, do not currently allow DACA individuals to apply for a driver’s license.

More Education

For many individuals who received a grant of DACA, pursuing college became a reality.  The grant of a two-year employment authorization document meant they could now work in order to pay or save up for college even if it meant paying for out-of-state tuition.  Imagine that, a more educated workforce! Indeed, the DACA policy became a powerful incentive for individuals in this country to pursue more education.  The American Association of Community Colleges was quick to see the impact and value that DACA would have on its stakeholders and its communities. For other DACA individuals, they could now pursue other vocational degrees.

Paying into Social Security and Paying Taxes

The ability for many individuals to obtain work authorization is life-changing for many.   Even lower wage workers are significantly impacted. More workers legally on the payroll means more workers are paying into our system, both social security and other taxes.  Moreover, these DACA workers could now also support their families and extended families with their wages.

More than a Hispanic Issue

What’s come to light in the DACA application process is also a look into how Asians make up an important percentage of DACA applicants, with Korea and the Philippines being represented.  The Atlantic recently published a detailed article on how the challenges of coming out as undocumented immigrants are different in the Asian community than the Hispanic community.

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The decrease in DACA applications being filed (and approved) in recent months is an indication that the popularity of the program may be waning due to the current immigration reform bill.  What will happen with the remainder of this program if immigration reform stalls?  We’ll have to see….