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It Changes Lives: DACA Anniversary a Reminder Why President Should Build on its Successes

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The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program celebrated its two-year anniversary last Friday.  To celebrate DACA’s anniversary, a range of voices are highlighting the program’s success – for the nearly 600,000 DACA recipients and for the country as a whole.  As many of these voices make clear, DACA’s successes make a strong case for President Obama to use his existing legal authority to expand the program to change more lives.  Among the key excerpts:

In a piece titled, “Happy Birthday DACA: Youth Say It Improved Immigrants’ Lives,” Suzanne Gamboa of NBC News lifts up findings of recent surveys and studies examining how DACA recipients’ lives have changed:

 A survey of 1,400 young immigrants found that about a quarter had become more politically involved since DACA was made available.  Although two-thirds say DACA status allayed their fears of apprehension and deportation, an equal proportion still have some anxiety because their family and friends still can be deported, according to the survey conducted for and by United We Dream and by Professor Tom Wong of the University of San Diego.  Young immigrants who have been able to obtain DACA have gone on to lend a hand to other young people to help them through the application process.

Own the Dream, a UWD initiative, has held application events that have been attended by 39,083 people, the group reported.  Most of those helped are teens ‘aging in’ to DACA eligibility and who have lived in the U.S. more than a decade, according to the group’s report issued Friday.  Myrna Orozco, an Own the Dream leader, said DREAMers are excited to show that DACA works.  ‘But as we celebrate, we’re reminded of those in our community who are still under the imminent threat of deportation,’ she said.

Dara Lind of Vox.com features the story of Oscar Hernandez, a 26-year old DACA recipient who has been in the U.S. since he was two years old, and who now works as an organizer for the Own the Dream network, “helping to get eligible immigrants signed up for DACA.”  Writes Lind:

 Immigrants who apply for DACA and are approved receive two years of protection from deportation.  For the first time since arriving in the US, they’re able to go to bed and wake up confident that they won’t be arrested and torn from their homes.  Furthermore, immigrants with DACA are able to apply for work permits, allowing them to work legally for the first time in their lives.  DACA is only temporary: after two years, immigrants have to renew their status…DACA only works if it actually protects immigrants from deportation.  If it helps them get college degrees. If it takes them from assuming they can’t have career ambitions — ‘I thought, I’m just going to mow lawns, and that was that,’ Hernandez says — to pursuing their goals.  In other words, it only works if people sign up…

…That’s why Hernandez and his colleagues are working so hard to continue to expand the reach of DACA, and to make sure that immigrants who signed up two years ago don’t lose its protections.  But how do you organize and inspire a community that’s been taught, and has taught its children, to keep their heads down?  ‘Out there I know that there’s another 6-year-old whose parents have no idea what help is available to them,’ says Hernandez.  They need someone, he says, to tell them, ‘If you’re great, show off your skills.  Be great.  Be awesome.  And you can get all the help you need.  This shouldn’t be something that should stop you.’

In a National Journal op-ed titled, “What President Obama Did for ‘Dreamers’ in 2012, He Should Do Again,DACA recipient and United We Dream (UWD) organizer Greisa Martinez shares her perspective on DACA and why it should be a building block for additional executive action:

Encouraging policies that keep families together should not be controversial.  Ensuring that our nation remains a place of opportunity for the young people who call this country home should not be a partisan issue.  It’s only through the lens of Washington dysfunction and what I see as growing nativism in the Republican Party that such assertions are controversial.

President Obama has the discretion, legal authority, and moral responsibility to reform his deportation legacy and to build on one of his administration’s successes with DACA.  No other family should have to go through what my family has [her father was deported in 2009, as her op-ed describes].  The president can stand with our families and fight for our community or he can use the current dysfunction in Washington as an excuse for inaction.  Our families, our community, and the arc of history will judge his decision.

On the “Al Punto” Sunday show on Univision, prominent Dreamers Erika Andiola of Dream Action Network (DRM) and Cristina Jiménez of United We Dream (UWD) shared why the president should use his existing legal authority to build on DACA’s successes – and what they will be doing to change more lives.  Said Jiménez:

First, we’re going to continue to pressure the president to use his executive authority…he can do it, there’re legal arguments for it so there’s no pretexts.  Second, we need to show the community the extremism of Republicans…expose what they have done- taken a vote to get rid of Deferred Action, a program that we have fought so hard for in order to protect us immigrant youth from deportation.  And third, we also need Democrats to lead at this moment…where are they?

Erika Andiola of DRM added:

 We need to create a space in where the undocumented community is the one negotiating with the White House…it’s harder to say ‘no’ to someone that was detained for a year in Florence, Arizona than to someone who has never been through it…