On the two-year anniversary of the implementation of President Barack Obamas deferred action program, which protects undocumented youth from deportation and allows them to work, a new report shows the federal program is improving the lives of those who are benefiting from it.
The report released Friday by United We Dream shows that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is not only protecting hundreds of thousands of undocumented young immigrants from deportation but also allowing them to enter the workforce using their two-year renewable work permit. Many are also getting drivers licenses, applying for credit cards and buying their first car.
Were excited to highlight DACA and to show the country that it works, said Adam Luna, an organizer with United We Dream. It has lifted more than half a million of young people out of the shadows. It has provided them protection from deportation and the ability to further contribute to the country we all call home.
Since the federal government began accepting applications for DACA on Aug. 15, 2012, hundreds of thousands of Dreamers have applied and have been approved. The report cites a study by the Migration Policy Institute that shows a total of 681,189 undocumented young immigrants had applied for DACA as of July 20 of this year. Out of those applicants, 587,366 were approved and 25,029 were denied.
The release of the report comes as House Republicans continue with their efforts to end DACA. Adam Luna, an organizer with United We Dream, condemned House Republicans for wanting to get rid of the program.
The success of DACA around the country has been inspiring to local business leaders, faith leaders and others in the community no matter what party theyre from, Luna said on a conference call with reporters on Friday. We think that any attempt to unravel this program is going to not just be met with failure but is going to have serious repercussions in the future.
‘Own the Dream’ leads on DACA implementation
Obama first announced the deferred action program in June 2012. His announcement followed a hard-fought campaign led by Dreamers and their allies to pressure the president to protect undocumented youth from deportation. Their request came after Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act, a bill that wouldve paved a path to citizenship for undocumented youth.
It was one of the biggest milestones in the history of the immigrant rights movement, Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, deputy managing director with United We Dream, said of Obamas announcement of DACA.
But with the victory came immense responsibility to ensure that the federal program was implemented correctly and that the largest number of Dreamers possible applied for it. Thats when United We Dream formed the Own the Dream campaign, the only nationwide DACA implementation effort in the country.
Through the campaign, Dreamers formed partnerships with legal experts and various community organizations to help thousands apply for DACA. They held more than 900 clinics and informational sessions across the country, serving more than 39,000 people at these events over the last two years.
Luna, who is the director of Own the Dream, said Dreamers led most of the work in communities in which they live. Theres really nothing like having someone who is a peer go out, do the outreach and then bring people into a DACA clinic and help them with their application, he said.
Online tools help Dreamers apply for DACA
In addition to the work on the ground, the Own the Dream campaign also created a website that provides online tools for Dreamers to help them apply for DACA.
One of those tools thats available on the website is an online interview that helps Dreamers learn more about DACA eligibility. The website also includes a national directory for Dreamers to find legal service providers in their area who can help them with the DACA application process.
Furthermore, a free mobile application called Pocket DACA was created to help Dreamers apply for DACA. It contains many of the same resources and features found on the Own the Dream website.
More than 100,000 people have been helped by the Own the Dream website resources, said Pat Malone, associate director at Immigration Advocacy Network, adding that the resources were created by national immigration experts.
The report by United We Dream concludes that for the most part, the implementation of DACA has been successful in part because of the work done to guide Dreamers through the application process. However, it noted that the urgency to engage in implementation work is higher than ever before.
Hundreds of thousands of Dreamers need to renew their DACA this year and there are many more who still arent protected, the report states. Additionally, we may be on the eve of implementing a similar relief package for our families, in which Dreamers will play a critical role.
Sousa-Rodriguez said that as Obama gets ready to announce executive actions on immigration, he and other immigration advocates are calling on the president to expand DACA to benefit the parents of Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants. President Obama has a unique opportunity to build on DACAs success and to lift millions of undocumented immigrants out of the fear of deportation, he said.