- Louise Pocock, Immigration Policy Attorney, SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center, [email protected], 803-630-1375
- Aylin Gomez, Community Organizer for Immigration Policy at SC Appleseed, and member of DACA United SC, [email protected], 864-375-8163
South Carolina (June 18, 2020) – This week, South Carolina Appleseed and DACA United SC are celebrating the eight-year anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program and calling on Congress to make the protections afforded by the program permanent.
DACA was originally created through executive order in 2012 under the Obama Administration, after Congress failed to pass legislation to protect those brought to this country without documentation at a young age, also known as Dreamers. The DACA program allows Dreamers who meet certain age, education, employment, and background requirements to apply for work authorization and protection from deportation. It also affords them opportunities that many other Americans take for granted, such as getting a drivers’ license and going to college. While DACA recipients may enroll in public colleges in the state, South Carolina still does not allow DACA recipients to get in-state tuition rates or financial aid, or occupational licenses, such as in cosmetology or teaching. DACA United SC and SC Appleseed are working with DACA recipients and allies to get these unfair state laws changed and give equal access to educational and professional opportunities for all lawfully present South Carolina residents.
Though the DACA program is not a complete solution because it doesn’t grant any type of permanent immigration status or path to citizenship, it has been a huge economic and social success – allowing thousands of people who grew up in this country to realize their dreams by giving them the opportunity to work and care for their families without the fear of deportation. This includes the thousands of DACA recipients who work in essential and high-risk jobs during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Center of American Progress, 700,000 DACA recipients contribute economically and socially to their communities across the country. Nearly 1.5 million individuals live in households with a DACA recipient, including more than a quarter million U.S.-born children whose parents have DACA status. Because they can work, DACA recipients pay $613.8 million in mortgage payments and $2.3 billion in rental payments each year. Annually, their households pay $5.7 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes. DACA recipients are making a societal and economic difference in every state.
South Carolina is similarly impacted. Ana Garcia, Community Organizer for Immigration Policy at SC Appleseed, and member of DACA United SC, a network of DACA recipients and allies providing resources for DACA recipients in South Carolina, explains that, “In the Palmetto state, DACA recipients have deep familial and economic roots.” The average age of arrival for the nearly 6,000 DACA recipients is six years old. Over 13,000 South Carolina residents live with a DACA recipient family member, including over 2,000 children whose parents rely on their DACA status to support their families. Annually, these DACA recipients pay $21.5 million in state and local taxes, $43 million in federal taxes, and over $200 million in local spending to the South Carolina economies.
Despite these numerous successes, the state of the DACA program has been uncertain since September 2017 when the Trump Administration moved to end the program. Although courts have allowed DACA to continue since then, many Dreamers have been unable to apply to the program, leaving too many unprotected. Currently, the case is before the United States Supreme Court with a decision expected at any moment.
However, Louise Pocock, Immigration Policy Attorney at SC Appleseed explains that, “Congress has the power to regulate immigration and should act now to pass legislation to make the protections of DACA permanent and protect all Dreamers.” The consequences of ending DACA, taking away hundreds of thousands of people’s ability to legally work and putting countless immigrant and mixed status families at risk of separation, would be catastrophic and provide no benefit to our state or our country.
Aylin Gomez, Community Organizer for Immigration Policy at SC Appleseed, and member of DACA United SC reminds us of the human cost of ending the program. “DACA recipients are important members of our community. They are our family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. DACA recipients, including myself, are living our lives in limbo as the decisions lies in the hands of the Supreme Court. DACA has allowed many people, including me, the opportunity to work, obtain a driver’s license, and pursue higher education. Real human lives will be negatively affected if the program ends.”
Regardless of the Court’s decision, now is the time for Congress to act. We must create permanent protections and a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and all Dreamers. If we fail to do so, the consequences would be catastrophic for everyone, not just immigrant families.
For over forty years, South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center has been a forceful and respected advocate for low income South Carolinians on issues such as housing, education, hunger, public benefits, domestic violence, immigration, health care and consumer issues.
DACA United S.C. is an advocacy and support group for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and allies across South Carolina. DACA United S.C. resists and combats anti-immigrant legislation and provides resources and services to DACA recipients to face the current and changing political climate.