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GOP’s Mass Deportation Plan Threatens Dreamers and 12 Years of Successes Under DACA

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Young immigrants, advocacy organizations, lawmakers, community members, and allies are set to mark the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program this upcoming Saturday with several in-person and virtual rallies, press briefings, and educational opportunities around the country this week. 

Events are set for states including Arizona (home to 20,100 DACA recipients), California (home to 150,000 DACA recipients), Illinois (home to nearly 28,000 DACA recipients), New Jersey (home to nearly 13,000 DACA recipients), and Texas (home to nearly 88,000 DACA recipients). A virtual panel hosted by the Thurgood Marshall Institute, TheDream.US, the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, and the Immigration Hub on Monday will discuss how inclusive education informs civil rights, while a virtual Home is Here community rally on Thursday will inform participants on everything there is to know about the current state of DACA.

In D.C. (the surrounding area is home to 15,000 DACA recipients), members of Congress are expected to join DACA recipients, DACA-eligible individuals, and allies to highlight the program’s successes and urge the Biden administration to expand relief for individuals currently not able to apply for the program due to a corrupt Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton-led lawsuit and subsequent ruling from Texas Judge Andrew Hanen.

Mother Jones reports that when Judith Ortiz and her twin sister sought to apply for DACA in 2020, their lawyer advised them to submit their applications on different days to avoid confusion due to their names and birthdates. But none of them knew that one day, it would make all the difference in the world. 

“In June 2021, Ortiz’s sister got approved,” Mother Jones reported. “But before Ortiz’s case could come to a resolution, Judge Hanen issued the decision halting new applications and sealed a different future for Ortiz than that of her sister,” blocking her from the ability to work legally. “‘I think I didn’t actually realize how much it did affect me until months later,’ Ortiz says. ‘It hit me more once I saw how much she was able to do with just that work permit and social security number.’ Because of DACA, her sister got a driver’s license, took out a car loan, and rented an apartment.”

The Ortiz sisters deserve the chance to thrive and reach their full potential, as so many young immigrants have had the opportunity to do since DACA’s implementation over a decade ago. Years of personal storytelling, reporting, and data have affirmed DACA to be one of the most successful immigration policies in U.S. history, giving its beneficiaries the ability to work legally, apply for driver’s licenses, access higher education, support themselves and their families, and build more secure lives in the only country they know as home.

Recent results from an annual survey of DACA recipients showed that the program’s beneficiaries “are more integrated in the American economy than they have ever been,” researchers said. Nearly 60% of survey respondents reported moving to a job with better pay, while nearly 48% said they could move to a job with better working conditions or that better fit their training. Nearly half reported moving to a job that “better fits [their] long-term career goals,” while nearly 58% reported moving to a position with health insurance and other vital benefits. Nearly 20% reported gaining professional licenses, allowing them to pursue careers in various fields.

The survey revealed that more than nine out of ten respondents are employed. “This represents a significant jump over the past years, even when compared with pre-pandemic levels; the 2019 survey showed that 89.2 percent of respondents were employed,” researchers said.

The proof is in the contributions. Research from the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that DACA recipients contribute nearly $2.1 billion to Social Security and Medicare annually. “In addition, their employers contributed more than $1.6 billion in payroll taxes toward Social Security and Medicare on these DACA recipients’ behalf.” Other CAP research has found that DACA “has empowered its recipients to pursue entrepreneurship and continue helping their families, their communities, and the U.S. economy in the face of significant barriers.”

“I don’t just employ people; I strive to elevate them,” said Alejandro Flores-Muñoz, a DACA recipient and small business owner in Colorado.

Despite these successes, DACA and roughly 500,000 Dreamers protected by the program are at immense risk. While President Biden issued a rule intended to fortify and strengthen DACA amid GOP attacks, Hanen – naturally – overruled it, and first-time applicants remain blocked under his ruling. GOP presidential nominee and convicted felon Donald Trump will also seek to end this relief should he return to the White House in January 2025 to deport millions of people, including Dreamers. Included in the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 agenda are plans to terminate work permits and deportation protections by eliminating staff time for reviewing and processing DACA renewal applications. Trump has said he’d consider Paxton, who has been instrumental in the attempts to end DACA, as his attorney general. Paxton’s own words led us to believe that he’d been colluding with Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Trump’s then-attorney general, to end DACA, leading us to file a records request into their communications.

Since then, formerly pro-immigrant Republicans like Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio have endorsed Trump’s mass deportation plans targeting Dreamers and millions of others. “The only policy change that will work is to have mass deportations,” Graham, a co-author of the Senate’s 2013 comprehensive immigration reform package, recently said. “Because people will stop coming when they see people leaving.”

Trump, Graham, and Rubio seek to deport Mitchell Soto-Rodriguez, the first DACA recipient to be sworn in as a police officer in Illinois’ Blue Island community. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month, she was among voices calling for permanent relief. While the program has allowed her to pursue her professional dreams in law enforcement, she described her life before DACA as “incredibly difficult,  including being denied a driver’s license and being afraid to call the police after a car struck her and her family.

“We were afraid because we were undocumented. But the police officer who came to the scene showed compassion,” she told lawmakers. “The moment inspired me to serve in law enforcement.” Soto-Rodriguez, who came to the U.S. when she was eight, made headlines after making DACA history earlier this year. “Having DACA allows us to become successful in life and to make a difference in the country that has seen us grow up,” she continued. “For many of us, the countries we come from are just in our memories. The only country we know is here where we stay. This is our home, the country that many of us provide to, we serve proudly.”

RELATED: ‘This Is Our Home’: Dreamers and Advocates Testify at Senate Hearing, Urge Congress to Act to Permanent Protections

Latest Findings from Annual DACA Survey Show Beneficiaries ‘Are More Integrated In the American Economy Than They Have Ever Been’

Lindsey Graham Endorses Trump Plan to Deport Dreamers and Long Settled Immigrants En Masse