In June 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was established by President Barack Obama. The law allowed people who moved to the United States in childhood and stayed until nowadays without any legitimate confirmation, to get two years of legal confirmation postponing their departure. The law is a part of immigration policy and was taken after the failure of the legislative proposal called the DREAM Act in 2001 (the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) the main purpose of which was to give immigrants who entered the US as minors the permission to work and later, according to various criteria, get permanent residency. However, the legislation procedure ended as a failure whilst passing both Houses of Congress.
A great number of undocumented immigrants is an essential problem for the last decades in the United States. It was estimated in 2017 that there are 11 million unlawful immigrants in the country (Venkataramani et al., 2017). The DACA program was initially a temporary measure to prevent the deportation of children brought to the US that did not have any legal residency status. This stratum of people asked for the right to stay in their home and continue education, work, and life. Due to DACA, immigrants can apply for work permits and receive health insurance from companies offering it. Since the program was inserted, more than 720000 people participated in it in 2017 (Venkataramani et al., 2017).
DACA provides a two-year postponement of immigrants’ departure; however, does not give an opportunity to get a lawful status in long-term perspective: no path to citizenship. To request DACA, the applicant was supposed to (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2021):
- Be under 31 years old on June 15, 2012;
- Enter the United States before 16 years old;
- Stay continuously in the United States since June 5, 2007, up to present time;
- Be present on the territory of the United States both on June 15, 2012, and on the time applying for consideration of deferred action in USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services);
Have no lawful status on June 15, 2012, meaning that:
- The applicant never had a lawful immigration status on or before June 15, 2012, or
- Any lawful immigration status has already expired as of June 15, 2012;
- Be studying at school, be graduated from high school with a certificate of completion, receive a general education development (GED) certificate, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
- Never be convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
The beneficiaries of the program are various as they provide safety and protection status of immigrants living in the US since childhood, their ability to work and study. Renewable two-year periods give immigrants a possibility to legally stay in the country and enhance the economy, develop their knowledge and skills. Among students eligible for DACA, a high demand to persist in the education process was noticed and students showed higher intentions to keep studying (Cadenas et al., 2018). It is essential to engage immigrants in all the aspects of education and work so that their adaptation to the country is milder.
Many immigrants say that their American friends can never be in their place. Immigrants feel a significant amount of stress and risk thinking of deportation and separation from their families. The feeling of relevant equality with other citizens can save the psychological health of immigrants and increase their self-esteem. Moreover, it was proved that among DACA participants the level of psychological distress was significantly reduced (Venkataramani et al., 2017). Another important benefit of DACA is eligibility for a driver’s license and other various IDs issued by states. According to the IRLE survey, 96 percent of DACA participants have a driver’s license comparing to unauthorized migrants (Hipsman et al., 2016). DACA has also permitted recipients to apply for advanced parole which is a document that allows foreigners to leave the United States and re-enter legitimately. However, this rule is applicable if a trip has humanitarian, scholastic, or occupation purposes (Hipsman et al., 2016).
Nevertheless, DACA has some shortcomings as the procedure of approval takes significant periods of time and some immigrants struggle to receive a permit for work. Some states provide the possibility to get scholarships and get into universities. The multilayered policy of the program raises financial complications to the educational involvement of students eligible for DACA (Lacomba, 2021). Circumstances immigrants are in turn out to be not documented in law which leads to state-level interpretations of the categories and, consequently, takes time. There should be a better interconnection between national and state laws at the local level.
The history of the DACA program claims the law was going through several ups and downs. In 2018, Donald Trump several times stopped the program with intentions to halt it. The court was fighting for the maintenance of DACA and claiming its significance on a nationwide scale. During these debates, there were periods of stopping the program, and new requests were not received. However, current participants of DACA saved all the rights DACA provided. President Biden in January 2021, issued a memorandum claiming the program should be maintained, fortified, and interconnected with present law. However, on July 16, 2021, a federal judge of Texas stopped the program claiming DACA is illegal (The Department of Homeland Security, 2021). New applicants were blocked and now in Texas, the program is temporally not functioning.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has been going through a tough way of helping immigrants and protecting their rights. The current law system lacks sustainability towards DACA as various people hope and pray for their home to stay home. The program provides education, work permission, IDs and even crossing the borders of the United States for essential reasons. Immigrants play a significant role in social, economic, political, and other aspects of US everyday life. Accepting people living all childhood in this country is a principle of morality, respect, and honor. Giving a chance to immigrants to study, work and have lawful rights can increase their self-esteem and develop the economy of the United States, reduce the crime rate. Fighting for the DACA program is important for immigrants and American citizens as we all live in one society and have common issues to struggle with.
Cadenas, G. A., Bernstein, B. L., & Tracey, T. J. G. (2018). Critical consciousness and intent to persist through college in DACA and U.S. citizen students: The role of immigration status, race, and ethnicity. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 24(4), 564–575.
Hipsman, F., Gómez-Aguiaga, B., & Capps, R. (2016). DACA at four: Participation in the Deferred Action Program and impacts on recipients. Washington DC: Migration Policy Institute.
Lacomba, C. (2021). The educational incorporation of DACA recipients in multilayered immigration policy contexts. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 23, 1-10.
The Department of Homeland Security. (2021). Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Web.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2021). Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Web.
Venkataramani, A. S., Shah, S. J., O’Brien, R., Kawachi, I., & Tsai, A. C. (2017). Health consequences of the US Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration programme: A quasi-experimental study. The Lancet Public Health, 2(4), e175–e181.