A year ago, President Obama announced the DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] program from the steps of the White House Rose Garden. The announcement marked a victory for thousands of undocumented immigrant youth whose courage and activism inspired the Administration to take action. Since then, over half a million young immigrants have come forward under DACA to seek relief from deportation and to secure work authorization from the government. After only a year, it is apparent that DACA has been worth the effort and the political pressure it took to create opportunities for young, unauthorized immigrants. After one year, the numbers are encouraging.
It is estimated that a total of 1.8 million young people are eligible for DACA. According to the most recent statistics, USCIS has received 539,128 applications since August 15, 2012. Of those, 365,237 have been approved. This means hundreds of thousands of young aspiring citizens can continue their education, work legally and be more active members of society. There’s a flipside to the statistics: there are about 400,000 who immediately qualify but haven’t applied and nearly half a million more that need to enroll in an adult education program so as to become DACA-eligible. Also, there is yet another 400,000 woud-be applicants who currently are too young to apply. Immigrant rights groups have hypothesized that a substantial portion of the eligible unDACAmented are living in rural America.
Preliminary research has confirmed this. According to a forthcoming Center for American Progress report by Professor Tom Wong of UCSD, of the first 150,000 DACA applications submitted, fewer than 1% came from rural parts of the country. Addressing this disparity is one of the key goals for providers in the coming year. For example, the Own the Dream Campaign, in collaboration with several national immigrants’ rights organizations, is developing systems to facilitate matching pro bono lawyers across the country with young DREAMers in Kansas and other largely rural states. Make no mistake: DACA is not without its detractors. A lawsuit currently pending in Texas argues that the Obama administration does not have the authority to grant deferred action to DREAMers; the judge in that case has issued a preliminary ruling in which he said he was likely to declare the DACA program illegal. The case is far from over, however, and experts are confident that DACA’s lawfulness is beyond dispute. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a longtime DACA critic, managed to insert an amendment to the DHS Appropriations bill (Sec. 588) that would effectively gut DACA. Fortunately, the Senate is unlikely to support such a provision. Despite these challenges, the DACA program moves into its second year with strong support from the American public, a broader network of service providers and pro bono attorneys interested in helping applicants, and evidence already of the power to change lives.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg during his keynote address last weekend at Stanford University commencement exercise, conncected immigration reform and the American Dream.
Bloomberg castigated the United States’ current immigration laws, calling them nonsensical and suggesting that “every STEM student should have a green card stapled to their diploma.”“If those in Washington [D.C.] had any sense at all, they’d be begging you to stay in the United States,” he told graduating international students. “It’s the most backwards economic policy you could possibly come up with.”He struck an optimistic tone, however, when reviewing the progress of efforts to bring about comprehensive immigration reform, noting that one such attempt is currently under serious consideration in Congress.“We have a real chance of passing sensible, comprehensive immigration reform this year,” he said. “If we are going to win the future, we’ve got to keep the future here.”
We at the Law Offices of Daniel E. Chavez will make every attempt to keep our readers up-to-date with the latest twists and turns about the larger picture. But, for now, suffice it to say that after only a year, the benefits of DACA for hundred of thousands of DREAMers have been more than worth the effort and political pressure it took to rceate opportunities for young, unauthorized immigrants. It is just as clear that we must remain vigilant and persistant in pointing our elected leaders in the direction of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, even as we fight to retain the gains that have come about for immigrants such as TPS [Temporary Protected Status], NACARA [Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act] and DACA. We’ll speak again.