What Is the DACA Immigration Policy?

By Rachel Ross
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Photo Courtesy: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was an immigration policy that allowed individuals who immigrated to the U.S. as children to receive deferred action on their immigration status for two years at a time. In September 2017, the Trump administration announced its intention to cancel DACA, threatening the livelihoods of 800,000 individuals in the program. It’s been a long battle, but in June 2020, the Supreme Court blocked Trump from ending DACA. However, this isn’t the first or last DACA fight. Here’s the history of the DACA program, including how it was passed, its challenges, the Dreamers and the program’s benefits.

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How the Policy Was Passed

Established in June 2012, DACA was introduced by the Obama administration as a way to prevent the deportation of young immigrants in the U.S. who lack citizenship or legal status. The program protects recipients for two years and allows them to stay in the country to work and attend school.

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Photo Courtesy: Win McNamee/Getty Images

For years, the administration and Congress couldn’t agree on how to protect young immigrants. Plus, the Dream Act failed to pass. As a result, DACA was made through an executive order, but some states, including Texas, believe Obama abused his power in creating the program, which has caused many problems for DACA.

Years of Challenges

Not everyone is in favor of DACA. Critics raised several issues with the policy. Some claimed that DACA was an insufficient short term solution to the larger issue of immigration in the U.S. While DACA provided a temporary reprieve from deportation, it did not give those enrolled a path to citizenship. Additionally, some critics asserted that the policy would encourage more minors to seek illegal entry into the U.S.

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Photo Courtesy: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Trump Administration has also tried to cancel the program since 2017. New applicants are not allowed, but current recipients are permitted to renew their applications for the time being due to lower court rulings. In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the administration unlawfully tried to shut the program. However, both Donald Trump and the Department of Homeland Security are still working to end DACA.

Who Exactly Are the Recipients?

DACA recipients are currently in their mid-20s and late-30s. Many of the recipients come from Mexico and Central or South America, such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Thousands also arrived from the Caribbean and Asia, generally South Korea and the Philippines.

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Photo Courtesy: Kena Betancur/VIEWpress/Corbis/Getty Images

The recipients, also known as Dreamers, live throughout the country, with the largest populations in California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Florida. The phrase "Dreamer" is based on the 2001 Dream Act that didn’t pass.

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Who Is Eligible for the Program?

In order for individuals to be eligible to participate in the program, they must have been younger than 31 years old as of June 15, 2012, the date the policy was announced by the Director of Homeland Security. Additional age requirements specified that DACA applicants must be at least 15 years old at the time of their request.

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DACA policy required applicants to have continuously lived in the U.S. at least from June 15, 2007, until the date of their application. Applicants were also required to have been physically present in the country on both June 15, 2012 and the date that they made their request for deferred action. Applicants were required to have been currently enrolled in high school, have graduated from high school, or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard or other Armed Forces. A record free of both felony convictions and significant misdemeanors was also required for entry to the program.

The Benefits

Participants in the program have experienced both greater employment opportunities and decreased fears of deportation from the U.S., according to the American Psychological Association (APA). The program also allowed younger participants to take part in age-specific milestones along with their peers, such as obtaining a driver's license and a work permit.

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Photo Courtesy: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images and Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Depending on the employer, DACA recipients can also obtain health insurance. With the permit to work, they can afford to pursue higher education on top of being eligible for educational grants and loans in some states. Every two years, the recipients can reapply for the program.