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On Its Third Anniversary, A Reminder How DACA Changed Lives and Electoral History

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Yesterday was the three year anniversary of the announcement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for Dreamers.  As several pieces reflecting on the anniversary highlight, DACA both changed hundreds of thousands of lives and altered the course of the 2012 presidential election.

When the DACA program went into effect, in August 2012, Ezra Klein wrote of a conversation he had with a senior strategist involved with President Obama’s reelection, noting that the official said that, “If the President wins, this official thought that we would look back after the election and pinpoint the day the administration announced their new policy on deportations as the day the election was won … Changing people’s lives is always more effective than another campaign ad.  And this policy is looking like it’s going to change a lot of lives.”

As we gear up for another presidential election cycle – in which support for immigration executive action is one of the clearest distinctions between the parties – the lessons from DACA are important to reflect on and remember:

Here are reminders about how DACA changed lives:

       By Griselda Nevarez

“Belen Sisa has been working full time while attending community college for the past two years building a future that sits on the shaky foundation of a three-year-old immigration program.

Sisa, originally from Argentina, is one of the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were able to exit their lives lived illegally in the U.S. and move into a quasi-legal status through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program begun by presidential executive action.

The new existence has even been dubbed with it’s own name from recipients _ DACAmented.

Since getting approved for DACA, Sisa has been attending Chandler-Gilbert Community College. She’s paid for her tuition of about $250 a class by working at a clothing store and a law firm. She’s now an unpaid intern in the district office of Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.

Her next goal is a degree in political science from Arizona State University, where she hopes to transfer. Then, someday, law school.

‘It has changed my life in so many ways,’ Sisa said about DACA. ‘It has given me a lot of confidence and safety. And it has also given me courage to push for more.’”

      By Amanda Sakuma

“In the last three years, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has become deeply ingrained in communities across the country, opening up career paths, educational opportunities, and effectively creating higher wages for more than 664,000 people. Another 244,000 DREAMers have gone on to renew their temporary status and been shielded from deportation.

‘DACA is a model for progress in what immigration now looks like,’ Cristina Jimenez, managing director of the advocacy group United We Dream, said during a conference with reporters Monday. “It has been a huge benefit not only to the immigrant communities and the families directly, but to the entire country.’”

Here’s a reminder about how DACA changed the course of the 2012 election cycle – with potential relevance for 2016:

By Matt A. Barreto, Thomas F. Schaller and Gary M. Segura

“By early 2012 and the start of the Republican primary contest, President Obama’s re-election team realized the Administration’s decision to move slow on immigration reform had jeopardized his support among Latinos and, consequently, his re-election chances. However, Latino support for Obama immediately surged following his executive action announcement on June 15, 2012.

‘This [DACA] action was a double win for the Obama campaign,’ according to a 2014 research study by political scientists Loren Collingwood, Justin Gross and Francisco Pedraza. ‘First, there was huge Latino support for the decision, and it was immediately reflected in polling numbers for Obama…Second, since the DACA directive announced by the president was an administrative order by an executive agency, Romney had to decide whether, if elected president, he would allow it to continue or halt it.’

Five months later, 75 percent of Latinos voters supported the president at re-election according to the ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions 2012 election poll, and higher still in key swing states like Colorado, Ohio, Nevada and New Mexico. Latino votes provided sufficient support to ensure Obama’s won re-election. On election day, 58 percent of Latino voters said Obama’s DACA policy made them more enthusiastic about voting for Obama, compared to just 6 percent who were less enthusiastic –a plus-52 favorable margin on election day! A simple tally of votes the day after election day 2012 proved that Latino voters provided Obama with his national margin of victory.

While DACA’s primary, real-world policy legacy is the dramatic relief it provided to these young immigrants, President Obama’s DACA announcement three years ago today also reshaped the national political debate on immigration, and particularly the use of presidential executive action as a solution to legislative gridlock. For Latinos, support for DACA specifically–and the use of unilateral presidential power in immigration politics generally–was on the ballot in 2012 and will be again in 2016.”