On June 15th, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is celebrating its ten-year anniversary. On this day ten years ago, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would not deport undocumented youth who met the requirements: Under the age of 31, came to this country under the age of 16, had been living in the United States for at least 5 years, and currently enrolled or graduated from high school.
In the past decade, DACA has had an enormous impact on many communities. Through this policy, more than 800,000 immigrant youth have been able to pursue work, education, and better provide for their families and communities without fear of deportation. I’m one of those DACA recipients who was able to pursue an education and am now able to work and better provide for my family. But, my future continues to be filled with stress and uncertainty. Every two years, DACA recipients need to apply to renew their status and work permit, which means we are only able to plan a future within two-year increments.
It has always been my dream to own a home in this country. Owning your own home is after all the American Dream since it signifies that you are planting your roots for generations to come. But being DACAmented can make the home buying process intimidating if you’re in constant fear that you could be stripped of your protection and social security at any point. If your social security is revoked, you lose your protection and your work permit. I would lose everything if my work permit was revoked. This is the only country I know, and this is where I belong. It is home to me and to so many of my family and friends who are living in limbo.
So while DACA has temporarily helped undocumented youth, it is not a permanent solution. For ten years, immigrant rights groups like FIRM, have been fighting to expand protections to the rest of our community and make them permanent with a pathway to citizenship.
I came to this country from Mexico at the age of 8 with my family in search of a better life.
In 2012, I was in my final year of high school when President Obama introduced DACA. At that time, I didn’t fully comprehend how the passage of this bill would impact my life. After enrolling in college in the fall of 2013, I realized that without DACA and the Dream Act, it would have been much more difficult for me to get a higher education and reach my dreams. So I became actively involved in immigration and racial equity issues and began mobilizing community members to speak out on these injustices.
After DACA, everything changed for me, I was able to graduate from my university and pursue a career. I have health insurance and am able to better provide for my loved ones. I have the financial means to help my community and live comfortably. DACA has provided me with a humane job and a living wage. It has allowed me to obtain a driver’s license so I can drive without fear of being pulled over and deported.
Growing up, I always worried about whether I would be able to pursue an education and build a career. Even though I’ve started to do that, I still have to live with those worries. DACA has faced several threats in the last few years. The Trump administration tried to repeal it, and even though the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the legality of DACA, the former GOP president still rejected applications. And last year, a federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from approving new applications.
I fear that the DACA program can come to an end any day. I fear for my family, friends, and community who don’t have DACA. And I fear that I might never be able to meet my family in Mexico.
While DACA has opened up opportunities for me, my ultimate goal is citizenship for all. DACA made me ask myself: Why do I qualify for protections while other undocumented youths do not? How is it that I am able to work legally in this country, but my mother who has sacrificed so much since she arrived is not recognized by this country? My mother emigrated to this country in search of a better life, in search of the American Dream. She came here to give her children the best possible life. Her actions were motivated by love for her children and for herself. In Mexico, my mother fled violence and unstable living conditions. She deserves the same protection.
In college, I met other students who didn’t meet the DACA requirements so they were not sure what they were going to do after college. Imagine going through college, pursuing a degree, and not knowing if you will ever be able to build a career and a life for yourself in this country where you’ve worked so hard. Hearing their stories motivated me and pushed me to never stop advocating for our community.
We have operated under this program for more than a decade. Our country needs a permanent solution for all DACAmented and undocumented residents. We must continue to press President Biden to keep his promises and work with Democrats in Congress to make all of our dreams a reality. Our government should be held accountable for providing protections and the right to live and work in the United States for all immigrants, which would end the fear of detention and deportation for 11 million people.
Organizing in numbers has power, a decade ago thousands of community activists came together and advocated for and defended DACA. We must not lose hope. We can and will achieve citizenship for all. Let us continue to stay united to hold our elected officials accountable.