This is a guest post by 2015 Fellow Laura Flores-Dixit, of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.
For the past four years, I have had the privilege of serving low-wage immigrant communities while learning from the immigration advocates at California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. My experiences as an AmeriCorps member in rural Texas, a volunteer law student, an Equal Justice Works Fellow, and now an Immigration Staff Attorney in rural California, have all reaffirmed my commitment to serving immigrants in geographically isolated communities.
In light of recent announcements about the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), I have compiled the following overview of the federal program. Here are eight things you should know about DACA:
On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking on behalf of President Donald J. Trump, announced the wind-down and end of the DACA program.
Beneficiaries whose DACA requests expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 can renew their DACA for an additional two years; however, renewal applications must be received by October 5, 2017. Unfortunately, all other DACA holders cannot renew their DACA, but may still use their Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) until they expire.
800,000 individuals and their families have benefited directly from opportunities created by DACA. Ninety-three percent of DACA holders over the age of 25 are employed, and have seen their hourly wage increase by 84 percent after receiving DACA. These individuals are teachers, construction workers, nurses, farm workers, and caregivers, many of whom have spouses, children, and siblings who are U.S. citizens. In addition to destabilizing families’ financial security, the announcement affects the lives of students, patients, and all other communities who benefit from the employment of DACA holders. Beyond these profound societal effects, research shows that by ending DACA, the U.S. will lose a potential $460.3 billion in contribution to our gross domestic product (GDP) over the next ten years.
- National organizations like United We Dream, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and the National Immigration Law Council provide credible updates on issues affecting immigrants.
- Local foreign consulates and trusted nonprofits are also good resources. + In a 2014 study, 14.3 percent of those eligible for DACA were also found eligible for more permanent immigration relief. To locate an immigration nonprofit near you that offers free or low-cost immigration services, such as immigration eligibility screening, please visit the Immigration Advocates Network Legal Services Directory. + NOTE: You should only seek immigration advice from an experienced and licensed immigration attorney or Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited representative. It is unlawful for notarios, immigration consultants, and tax preparers to provide immigration legal advice.
Immediately following the announcement, DACA holders, other undocumented community members, and allies in the Black Lives Matter movement, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) groups, LGBTQ groups, indigenous communities, Muslim communities, disability activism groups, veterans’ groups, and women’s rights groups condemned the decision of President Trump to rescind DACA. In the days and years ahead, it is crucial that we take on and defend each other’s struggles as our own by learning, recognizing, and embracing the intersections of our lived human experiences.
Call to Action:
We must #DefendDACA. DACA holders are important continuants who can and have demanded that elected officials hear their concerns. DACA holders are our family members, friends, and neighbors, and it is the voting base’s obligation to demand that elected officials protect our community members or risk losing reelection. Together, in solidarity, we must make democracy work for all members of American society, including the disenfranchised.
Ninety percent of DACA holders received a state driver’s license or identification card for the first time after DACA. These individuals should research their ability to use their current state identification cards once their DACA expires, as well as other local identification options, as some states and cities offer licenses or identification cards for undocumented residents. DACA holders can look for resources, such as state agencies and local nonprofits, to learn more about their rights as students, their rights as employees, and how their health-care access may change once their DACA expires.
With a spotlight on DACA, there is an opportunity to demand protection not only for DACA holders, but for all immigrants. We must remember that DACA holders are not political pawns to be negotiated with, and that it is time to move beyond the good immigrant/bad immigrant dichotomy, recognizing the contribution of all immigrants to American society, regardless of their academic, criminal, or immigration history.