In the midst of marches and demonstrations, The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program celebrates its 10th anniversary this Wednesday while more than 600,000 beneficiaries maintain the illusion of a permanent migration solution and millions more would like, at least, to obtain this temporary protection.
On June 15, 2012, the then president Barack Obama established the program, which protects from deportation and grants renewable work permits every two years to immigrants who came to the country irregularly as children.
This is the case of Mexican Lizbeth García, who crossed the border when she was just 8 years old with her mother and sister.
“DACA has been very, very good. She has opened many doors for me and my sister, Kathia, ”she told Efe García, 27, an English teacher at a Los Angeles high school. Without DACA she would not have gotten the job.
She points out that in these 10 years the program has taken her through a roller coaster of emotions that at times have put her on a peak and at others have thrown her into the void feeling that she is going to crash. “The hardest part was the time of (Donald)Trump when he tried to end DACA. It left us with a fear that does not end because Congress does not want to act, ”she exposed.
All in all, it is something that Juan Carlos R., a Salvadoran who came to the United States when he was 7 years old, would like to experience.
“If they gave me DACA, I would be very grateful because I want to continue studying and working to help my parents,” the young resident of the Central Valley of California, who is not eligible because he arrived shortly after the deadline stipulated in the program, told Efe: June 15, 2007.
A reform that does not come
DACA was born as a provisional response to the inability of the US Congress to provide a permanent solution to these people, who have shown themselves to be the best face of undocumented immigration.
During this time, more than 800,000 people have benefited from protection, according to figures from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).
According to the Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), 611,407 immigrants were protected by DACA as of December 31, 2021. Almost 200,000 more who had the protection have obtained legal residence or have lost it for various reasons.
DACA holders contribute nearly $42 billion annually to the US economy, according to MPI estimates. However, the Senate has not approved a law that protects the so-called “dreamers.”
Last year, he did not want to consider the 2021 American Promise and Dream Act, approved by the House of Representatives, which would have given permanent residence to DACA beneficiaries and immigrants who did not qualify, such as Juan Carlos. In total, 3 million young people would have benefited.
House Democrats also failed to tie immigration reform with a path to citizenship to President Joe Biden’s social plan.
“It has been a total disappointment, a lack of will,” said Isaías Guerrero, spokesman for the organization Firm Action, protected by DACA since 2013.
In this regard, Jorge Loweree, director of programs and strategy of the American Immigration Council, told Efe that “we are living in an era in which Congress is not dealing with difficult problems until there is an absolute emergency.”
That is why García and Guerrero have joined thousands of others to make the issue a priority again. This Wednesday they will march in the capital of the United States to ask for a permanent solution with a path to citizenship.
Thousands yearn for protection
Among those who will demonstrate is Taylete, a 19-year-old Mexican woman who was unable to obtain DACA because now-former President Trump canceled the program 15 days before she completed her application in 2017. The Supreme Court later reversed the measure of the Republican president.
The young woman hopes that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will rule against a Texas lawsuit that keeps the approval of new applications paralyzed, affecting some 400,000 eligible undocumented immigrants.
Others, like Juan Carlos, don’t even have that option. A report by FWD.us found that some 75,000 undocumented students among prospective 2022 high school graduates are ineligible for arriving after the deadline.
It is a situation that Kathia García, sister of Lizbeth and in charge of the youth program of the Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants (CHIRLA), sees daily. At work she regularly hears the same question: What can we do to get a work permit?
“It is difficult to answer that there is still nothing. But I tell them that we cannot let ourselves be defeated, that we must continue fighting until we achieve immigration reform,” she said.
Loweree stresses that the pressure on Congress must be kept up. In his opinion, the Biden administration has its hands tied in extending DACA eligibility due to the ongoing lawsuit.
For Guerrero, who arrived from Colombia at the age of 15, the outlook is not very rosy. He doubts that anything can be achieved in Congress before the midterm elections in November.
He even fears that the Democrats will lose their majority in Congress and that the hopes of DACA recipients will fade.
“If that happens, perhaps the only option we will have will be until 2032,” he warned, evoking the possibility that the Democrats lose the presidential elections in 2024 and 2028.