The uncertain future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Teresa Balmori Perez, Assistant News Editor

The Dreamers Resource Center at California State University, Bakersfield helps undocumented students, specifically DACA recipients, while they pursue higher education. Photo by Gillian Galicia / The Runner

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, was put into effect by executive order more than ten years ago. Since then, it hasn’t lived up to its potential due to numerous court districts threatening to end the program and have stopped accepting new applicants which has led to many people being concerned about the program’s future.  

Luis, who requested to be anonymous, is a current DACA recipient, who was able to take advantage of the program by receiving assistance in finding stable work and funding for his college education.  

Luis was born in México in Zacapu, Michoacán. He was only one year old when his parents brought him to the United States in search of a better life.  

Luis is one of the 600,000 DACA recipients that were brought to the United States by their parents, according to the National Immigration Forum.  

DACA is a program that was implemented by the Obama Administration in 2012. It provides undocumented immigrants with a two-year renewal of work authorization and protection from deportation, according to Mariela Gomez the Coordinator for the Dreamers Resource Center at California State University, Bakersfield that provides resources to undocumented students or people with mixed-status families.   

According to Luis, if it wasn’t for DACA, it would have been very discouraging for him to complete his college degree because without having a proper work permit, he would have had problems finding employment after college. He graduated from CSUB in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in supply chain logistics.  

”For me personally, [receiving my degree] definitely gave me a prior background in certain areas of management and business to where I could then apply those skills into the workforce,” Luis said.  

After college, Luis was able to find a job as a manufacturing operator at a drainage system company where he is responsible for overseeing the products and making sure they are ready for customers to purchase the materials. He stated that the skills he gained from his college years helped him collaborate with numerous employees to make business decisions in order for the company to make the products accessible.   

According to Luis’s mom, she feels very happy and grateful that he was able to finally earn his degree and receive a job where he can be financially stable. Due to her immigration status, Luis’s mother chose to maintain her anonymity. 

Luis’s mom also shared her thoughts on her son being able to apply for DACA.  

“Es una ventaja que tiene su DACA porque así no se siente muy ilegal y tan desprotegido / It’s an advantage that he has his DACA because that way he does not feel so illegal and unprotected” she said.  

DACA recipients also have the opportunity to fill out the California Dream Act Application also known as CADDA, which helps undocumented students to request state financial help in order to pay for their tuition. However, because DACA recipients are only able to receive financial aid from the state, they receive less money compared to students who submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is because students who receive FAFSA are awarded state and federal aid, according to Gomez.  

Inside the Dreamers Resource Center at CSUB. Photo by Gillian Galicia / The Runner

Luis stated that while he was going to college, he was able to receive financial aid. However, he was only granted $600 per semester. Because he was not able to pay for the rest of his tuition, Luis worked at Vallarta Supermarket during his time at college.  

Gomez mentioned that it also depends on people’s family income, financial needs, and how many units a student is taking per semester in order to see how much a student will be awarded financial aid.  

Despite the benefits that come from the DACA program, there have been some challenges that have been implemented towards the program.  

“What’s going to happen with the immigration laws is something that could change this week, next week, next month,” Gomez said.  

In October 2022 the Texas District Court ruled that the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will no longer process requests for new DACA applications and will only accept DACA renewals from current eligible recipients, according to the National Immigration Law Center.  

Luis feels very grateful that he still gets the chance to renew his application. He makes an effort to take advantage of the different sacrifices that his parents made in relocating to America in order to provide him with a better life by completing his education and finding a stable job.  

In October 2022, the Fifth Circuit Courthouse ruled DACA as unlawful, due to this it’s uncertain that the program will continue in the near future.   

According to Luis, because thousands of DACA recipients would be unable to find employment without a work permit, Luis believes that ending DACA would have a negative economic impact on America. 

When asked what he would do if the program ended, Luis is unsure. If they do, he would need to find work under a different name or work with a different Social Security Number. He would also consider returning to México and moving to a city where he could find a job with his degree.  

Despite the possible ending to the program, on Feb. 9, 2023, senators Linsey Graham and Dick Durbin proposed a possible bill called the Dream Act 2023. The bill will provide young undocumented immigrants with a pathway to legal residence. They will be able to lawfully work in the United States and travel abroad without worrying about the possibility of not returning, according to the National Immigration Forum.  

“I think that [congress] definitely need to look at their current policies, on how people apply for legal permanent residency, how they apply for Visa, how they work for permits and citizenship in general,” Gomez said “I think it would be easier for them to revise their policies, instead of doing like a brand-new program.”  

According to Gomez, she advises citizens to get in touch with their state or local legislators to urge them to support undocumented youths if they have any concerns about DACA or other immigration policies.