June 15th, 2018, marks the 6th anniversary of the highly successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which began under President Barack Obama in 2012. In the last six years DACA has improved and stabilized the lives of nearly 1 million young people across the United States, affording them protection from deportation, the ability to obtain driver’s licenses, access to safe and stable employment, and in many cases, the option to pursue higher education.
It is hard to overstate the significance and positive impact of the DACA program in the lives of its recipients. Simultaneously, it’s hard to for anyone who has never experienced being undocumented to understand the true meaning of this protection – for many, DACA has been lifechanging.
SC Appleseed works directly with individuals who have explained just how important DACA is in their lives. Here are some of their stories:
“Since the DACA program, I have had the chance to become a Nursing Assistant and now work with the elderly. Many of the ones I help take care of are war veterans. I am now married with a 3-year-old son. My husband and I worked hard and were able to recently purchase our first home. Now that we are financially more stable I want to follow my dreams. I want to contribute to this wonderful country that has given me so much. I KNOW I have so much to give.”
“In 2012, under the Obama Administration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created. God answered our prayers. I knew he had a plan for us – this was it. I applied and was approved. […] DACA has changed my life and 800,000 others. I am part of the 63% [of DACA recipients] who has a better paying job with benefits. Without this opportunity, I would still be […] working for under minimum wage, with no future.”
“I was able to achieve much more with DACA because I was finally able to get my driver’s license and have a regular job a teenager could have. I finally had a social security [number] which allowed me to better myself. I was able to get my glasses because of it. DACA has helped me achieve many things I didn’t know I would be able to, like going to the dentist, having a social security number, and having a license.”
“When President Obama announced the Executive Action on June 15, 2012, and I read all the requirements about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs, that was one of the happiest days of my life. Since that day my life has completely changed. After my initial approval, I was hired as a receptionist at a local immigration law firm. I worked very hard there, and within a year, I was promoted to a legal assistant. A few months later, I learned about the paralegal program at USC, and I started saving so I could pay for my tuition.
In the Spring of 2014, I obtained my paralegal certificate. With my boss’ supervision, I helped hundreds of DACA recipients. Every time one DACA was approved I could not help but to feel the feeling I felt the first time I held my Employment Authorization Card.
Before DACA, I was living in constant fear. DACA gave me peace of mind for five (5) years. The same fear came back into my life on September 5, with the announcement from the Trump administration that the program will end […].
I can’t imagine my life living anywhere else than […] South Carolina, this is my home.”
Today, we celebrate the anniversary of this program while understanding there are many dreams still deferred and still incomplete within the DACA program. With the fate of DACA still uncertain, we know that the real responsibility falls on Congress. Congress has the power and the authority to pass a law to provide a pathway to citizenship for these young people and remove the fear and uncertainty from their lives. Instead, these young people have been used as political bargaining chips. They deserve better. We can do better.
South Carolina benefits each and every day from the contributions these young people offer our great state. This is their home. Dreamers are here to stay, and they deserve the opportunity to fully realize their dream of US citizenship. We support Dreamers and continue to fight for a legislative solution.