On July 15, 2012, President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an initiative that grants temporary relief from deportation to certain undocumented youth. In the two years since the president's announcement, more than half a million DACA applications have been approved, allowing many undocumented young people to pursue their ambitions free from fear of being deported. These youth have used their new status to enroll in higher education, pursue work opportunities, and gain access to banking services and other essential resources. As the time draws near for the first DACA recipients to renew their status for another two years, we look back on how DACA has benefitted our communities.
As of March 2014, the DACA program, administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has received nearly 675,000 applications. Of those who have applied, more than 640,000 DREAMers have been granted deferred action. This vast effort would have been impossible without the assistance of community organizations across the country, including NCLR Affiliates who have been helping since day one to guide and support community members through the application process.
What lessons can we draw from the first two years of the DACA process? DACA recipients have benefitted immeasurably from gaining access to opportunities previously denied to them because of their immigration status. These new opportunities have also helped DREAMers contribute to the economy. Our friends at the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) surveyed DACA grantees and found that recipients were able to utilize resources, such as banking and financial services, that had previously been beyond their grasp.
Of those surveyed, IPC reports that:
- 59 percent were able to get a new job, with 45 percent seeing increased earnings
- 49 percent opened their first bank account, and 33 percent their first credit card
- 57 percent secured a driver's license
NCLR's own Gaby Gomez, an intern with our Communications team and a senior at the University of Maryland, can attest to the importance of DACA for her academic pursuits and career explorations:
"DACA, though a temporary measure, paved the way for me to seize new academic and career opportunities that once felt out of reach. DACA made it possible for me to spend last summer working on social justice issues impacting the Latino community. This work motivated me to approach my studies with renewed interest and with an impetus to steer them in the direction of public service and advocacy. I am a proud recipient of DACA."
As Gaby notes, DACA only provides relief for two years and does not grant individuals permanent lawful status. This is why it's so important that DACA recipients request renewal with USCIS four or five months before their DACA status expires.
If you were one of the first people to receive DACA in September or October of 2012, now is the time to submit your request for renewal! If you have not yet applied for DACA, or if you were previously too young to apply, you may now be eligible.
Whether you are applying for the first time or applying for renewal, be sure to check out NCLR's recently released fact sheet on DACA renewals and first-time DACA applications, available here.
This was first posted to the NCLR Blog.