Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: One-Year Anniversary Update29 Aug 2013
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival’s program (DACA) marked its one-year anniversary on August 15, 2013. Although the program has obviously not resolved many of the problems this nation faces regarding its population of undocumented foreign nationals, DACA has at least provided substantial benefits to thousands of youths who previously had been forced to live in the shadows.
Background on DACA
DACA is a temporary program that grants a two-year period of relief, including work and travel authorization, to a designated group of undocumented foreign nationals who initially entered the United States as children. It is designed to provide some reprieve and temporary benefits to those children and young adults who were the intended beneficiaries of proposed legislation known as the DREAM Act, a bill that ultimately stalled in Congress. More information about DACA and the failed DREAM Act is available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, USCIS Moving Forward with Deferred Action for “DREAMers” (31.Jul.2012).
Over 500,000 DACA Applicants in First Year
The DACA program received more than 500,000 applicants during its first year, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As of the time of this writing, 430,000 of these applications have been approved. Other applications remain pending, awaiting final decision.
The number of DACA applications filed, while significant, was substantially lower than initially expected, especially considering that an estimated 1.7 million individuals potentially qualified for the program. The reasons for their hesitation are likely tied to the temporary nature of the program, with no guarantee that the program will be extended (or for how long), and fears that revealing their identities to the government could result in their being placed in removal proceedings once the program expires.
Plight of DACA Beneficiaries Improves
The Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Council (AIC) released preliminary findings regarding the impact of DACA on those aged 18 to 31 who have utilized the program. According to these findings, the work authorization provided under DACA, not surprisingly, resulted in significant increases in economic opportunities for the recipients. For example, after being approved under DACA, sixty-one percent (61%) of beneficiaries subsequently were able to find their first jobs, and finally were able to obtain drivers’ licenses. Over half of DACA beneficiaries were able to open their first bank accounts.
Long-Term Questions Remain
As DACA is a temporary program that does not have any components for facilitating a transition to a long-term status for its participants, these young adults face an uncertain future. According to the survey data, almost half of DACA beneficiaries worry all or most of the time that people close to them, including family members, will be removed (deported). Nearly two-thirds of them know someone who has been deported. As would be expected, the survey indicates that DACA recipients want to have a long-term, secure status in the United States. Ninety-four percent (94%) of DACA beneficiaries indicate that, if they were eligible, they would apply to become U.S. citizens.
DHS Urges Creation of a More Permanent Solution
The DHS issued a statement that voiced continued support for the DACA program, noting that the program helps to make the immigration system more effective by focusing enforcement resources on criminals and others who pose a threat to the United States. The DHS also urged enactment of a long-term solution in the form of comprehensive immigration reform to address problems within the nation’s outdated immigration system.
The DACA program reflects the current administration’s recognition of key flaws within the immigration system, and a shift away from policies that focused too heavily on enforcement. The success of the program is yet another demonstration of the positive impact smart immigration laws and regulations can have on the United States, a nation that was founded by immigrants.
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