What is DACA?
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a temporary program that allows undocumented youth the opportunity to apply for a 2-year renewable work authorization card and provide relief from deportation for that period. Over a million young people applied and about 800,000 were accepted. It does not provide a pathway to citizenship, only a temporary work permit, and it does not prevent deporation. It is an Obama-era policy brought about by the activism of undocumented youth in 2012. DREAM Team Los Angeles member, Neidi Dominguez, drafted the original policy in reaction to the DREAM Act failed vote in 2010. A legal brief petition was presented to the Obama Administration along with the threat of massive civil disobedience action should President Obama fail to take action. When other national immigrant youth activist organizations held sit-in’s in Obama’s reelection offices (OFA) this created a dilemma for the President, remove the activists from his offices and be seen as attacking the Latino community whom he needed for their votes, or concede to their demands. In June of 2012 Obama announced the program of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the program began accepting applications in August of that year. To date, DACA and it’s parent companion, DAPA, are the signature policy efforts of DREAM Team Los Angeles.
So your next question is what is “undocumented”?
This refers to the almost 11 million people in America without papers or are in an adjustment status to get visas or residence cards. These people came to America “without inspection” or overstayed their visas. The important thing to know is that for these people there are no paths to adjust their status. And they face a 10-year bar from being able to apply and that is only if their return to their home countries and start the process from outside the US, potentially leaving family members here.
America has two signs on our border with Mexico. One sign says “No Trespassing” and the other sign says “Help Wanted”. And theses signs are right next to each other. We have not addressed our broken immigration system in over 4 decades and all that time we’ve been the largest economy in the world that requires 3 million new immigrants each year to sustain this growth while only providing about 10% of that number in legal ways to immigrate.
Why is the DACA program important?
There are several main groups and entities benefiting from the DACA program.
- First is to the DACA holder. We got real jobs for the first time in our lives. We all bought cars, some bought homes, and it improved our mental health, we are no longer living in the shadows. No more hiding in plain sight.
- The second group benefiting are the families of DACA holders. For many families a working household member, either DACA or US citizen, is a lifeline. Don’t think about 800,000 people benefiting from DACA, think about 800,000 families, up to 3.2 million people benefiting through a DACA recipient.
- The third group benefiting are the employers. DACA didn’t “legalize” employees it legalized employers who were in violation of the law all this time hiring undocumented workers. A business will staff job vacancies if the alternative means closing down. The real truth of the matter is the only reason you can have 11 million undocumented workers in the US is with the knowledge and complacency of business and government.
- Which brings us to our final beneficiary, the US government. The most obvious is the billions of dollars in state and federal taxes contributed by the DACA workers over the 5 years of the program. There are a lot of tax dollars and economic activity being generated by people like me. The other benefit is to the USCIS (US Customs and Immigration Service) [the friendlier office of immigration as opposed to the ICE enforcement side.] Everyone anticipated that immigration reform was coming, that DACA would be temporary until replaced, and the DACA program was a trial run for the USCIS on how to process millions of applications. In fact, the application fees from DACA actually fund the program there, it is a revenue positive government agency.
What can people do to help?
Help us by changing the narrative of who immigrants and people of color are. It may seem that our goal is legislative victories but that is only one part. Remember, no amount of US citizenship was enough to save Trayvon Martin’s life. No amount of citizenship prevented a car from striking dozens of people and killing Heather Heyer at the hands of a white nationalist. We have to change the national dialog.
- Go to our website, www.dreamteamla.org and join us in our rallies. Inform yourself on the issues. Contact legislative officials. If you’re in California contact your representative and tell them you want their vote on the California Values Act to protect immigrant communities from overzealous police agencies.
- Tell Congress you want them to make permanent the DACA program. There are bills in both the Senate and House.
- If you are student work with your school’s administration to declare you campus a safe zone.
- More importantly, be someone who steps forward and says, “what can I do to help?” It all starts from there.
The important thing to remember is this, how long do we as an undocumented community allow our bodies to be used for profit? People profit from our labor, they profit from our incarceration, they profit from our transitional “legal” status. Should the DACA program end these 800,000 DACA youth will join the 11 million undocumented already working without legal authorization. These 11 million are part of millions of people of color who have difficulty finding work or are underemployed. And what about people with criminal convictions who have to “check the box” on employment applications? Did you know over one third of Americans have some type of criminal record? When you zoom out you realize this is a larger system of control; controlling who is incharge by controlling people’s access to work, their access to vote, their access to have a life. Please join us because this is truly an all people’s cause.