Today, we step back to commemorate the eight-year anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA was originally created through executive order in 2012 under the Obama Administration, after Congress failed to pass legislation to help those brought to this country without documentation at a young age.
DACA allows those eligible to apply for work authorization and protection from deportation. It also allows for 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.
Despite its success in helping young American immigrants achieve their educational and professional dreams, the DACA program has been in limbo since September 2017 when the Trump Administration attempted to end it by rescinding the 2012 executive order. Although courts have allowed DACA to continue since then, those who have become eligible have been unable to apply the program, leaving many of them unprotected. Currently, the case is before the United States Supreme Court with a decision expected any moment. We hope that the Supreme Court makes the right decision in allowing DACA to continue and that Congress acts to give DACA recipients a path to citizenship in the country they call home.
Though the program is not a complete solution because it doesn’t grant any type of permanent immigration status to recipients, 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 grow 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. 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 country.
Though it’s easy for politicians, the media, think tanks, and others to discuss these policies in the language of GDP and economics, we must remember that they affect these human lives in immeasurable ways. Any changes to DACA is felt by everyone because Dreamers— people who came to this country as youth and call the U.S. home—are members of our communities, family members, spouses, friends, co-workers, employers, and more.
We can’t measure the fear felt by children who worry they might come home from school to empty houses because ICE took their parents away. We can’t measure the pain felt by communities when a routine traffic stops leads to the deportation of a valued worker, business owner, or community leader. We can’t measure the heartbreak and anxiety felt by an undocumented parent when they are separated from their citizen-children. All these things have happened before, and if we fail to protect and build on DACA, they will continue, with greater intensity.
During these times when our brothers and sisters in the Black community experience violence and murder, we must look to make positive change for all. We cannot allow more injustices to happen. South Carolina Appleseed will continue fighting for everyone in our state, turning the tides of racism and xenophobia that have plagued our communities for far too long. We will always choose the path of justice over injustice. We will always stand with Dreamers, immigrants, and others overlooked in the courthouse, at the statehouse, and in the public square. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, now is the time for Congress to Act to create permanent protections and a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and all Dreamers. Please take a moment to contact your member of Congress by clicking here. Remind them how important DACA recipients and Dreamers are to South Carolina and ask them to support legislation that creates a permanent path to citizenship for them.