Six years ago today, the life of thousands of undocumented youth changed for the better in an instant. On August 15, 2012, the federal government started accepting applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that was created by President Barack Obama earlier that summer. Tens of thousands of Dreamers lined up in major cities across the U.S. to learn information about how they could apply.
DACA promised to give undocumented youth that had lived much or most of their lives in the United States work authorization, relief from deportation, and the opportunity to contribute to the country they called “home.”
Because of DACA:
- 96% of recipients are in school or employed
- 54% have moved to a job with better pay
- 32% have a bachelor’s degree or higher
- 6% have started their own business
Betsy Hernandez is among them. Betsy is 24 years old and has been living in the United States since she was 6. For as long as she can remember, Indianapolis has been her home. In 2012, Betsy became the first in her family to graduate high school and go to college. Although it was a time of happiness, she was still scared and anxious because she was undocumented.
“Being undocumented meant no job, no driver’s license, no financial aid, no in-state tuition, nothing that required a social security number or U.S. government-issued ID,” she said.
It all changed when the creation of DACA was announced. Betsy applied as soon as the applications were accepted and was able to go to college. Today, Betsy works in management at a Fortune 500 company.
Last year, however, the Trump Administration decided to terminate DACA, leaving nearly 800,000 undocumented youth in limbo and potentially at risk of deportation once again. Under Trump, DACA is holding on by a thread, in place only thanks to court orders that could at some point be overruled. Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Congress has done nothing for Dreamers, despite often-repeated talking points about the contributions of immigrant youth.
Under the Trump Administration, DACA recipients fall into danger if their status lapses (sometimes, even before then), and Betsy’s DACA expires early next year. She recently applied for renewal with the help of a GoFundMe campaign that helped her and her brother pay for their respective fees when they encountered financial setbacks.
The decision by the Trump Administration to end DACA was an assault against young people who are American in every way but one — on paper. Undocumented youth like Betsy embody our nation’s values such as hard work, perseverance and patriotism.
We must continue to stand up and support Dreamers and DACA recipients across the country.
Call your members of Congress at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to pass legislation that supports Dreamers and help those that are eligible to renew their applications so that they can continue to stay and contribute to this country.