June 15 marked the 10th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was established via an executive order by former President Barack Obama but has never been passed into law and made permanent.

DACA protects over 800,000 so-called Dreamers who crossed the U.S. border illegally as children, but legal challenges to the DACA executive order by the state of Texas, among others, have left Dreamers in fear of deportation.

Congress has been pushed to pass a permanent bipartisan solution for the Dreamers to be able to legally stay in the United States, but such a solution has never cleared Congress. DACA allows Dreamers to gain a worker’s permit as well as a driver’s license, but they are not given a way to apply for citizenship or permanent residency.

The Coalition for the American Dream, a progressive advocacy group, released this statement last week, regarding DACA program and Dreamers:  “Poll after poll has shown that overwhelming majorities of Americans in both political parties support Dreamers and so it’s simply inexcusable that years later, Congress has still not acted to end the legal limbo they have been in for years. Dreamers are critical members of our workforce, industries, and communities, and they have abided by the laws and regulations of our country where they have lived almost their entire lives. The thousands of Americans businesses represented by the Coalition for the American Dream are proud to employ many of them and we are equally proud to have watched many Dreamers start their own businesses as they contribute greatly to the American economy. The fate of these more than 800,000 Dreamers continues to hang in the balance and it’s long past time for Congress to act by passing a permanent, bipartisan legislative solution.”

The Coalition for the American Dream has also endorsed the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (H.R.6) which would provide a pathway for Dreamers to gain permanent-residence status and eventually apply for citizenship.

Many Dreamers spoke out on the 10th anniversary of DACA, talking about how the program allowed them to gain a better life in the U.S. but also how the country needs more protections for immigrants.

Fernanda Jimenez, DACA recipient, 21, grant writer and college student said in a news release: “I was born in Mexico City in 2000 and in 2005 my family decided to move to the United States for a better life. We crossed desert and mountainous regions for 3 days with no water and food but hoped that with the risk we were taking for our lives that the American Dream would be worth it. This country is the only place I know. Thanks to the organizing of dreamers, I was able to apply for DACA in 2015 when I turned 15. I was thrilled to finally be able to have a work permit and a driver’s license like my other friends. These two seemingly minor things that many others do not think of being difficult to gain, changed my life and my family’s. I am able to get a job legally, drive my parents and myself without the fear of being stopped by the police, and especially the protection from deportation. However, having DACA is not enough. Unfortunately, in the State of Wisconsin DACA recipients and undocumented students do not qualify for in-state tuition. As a first-generation immigrant student, navigating financial aid has been a huge obstacle in my education. DACA was meant to only be temporary, and it has been dragged on for too long without a permanent solution. Now more than ever we need Congress to act for a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants.”  

Fernanda Jimenez (5 years old) and her family after arriving to the United States in 2005
Fernanda Jimenez and her family at her high school graduation in 2018

Ilse Merlin Tiburcio & Pablo Enriquez, DACA recipients, educators at Racine Unified also said in a news release:  “DACA has helped us, with our 2 year old son, feel safe. It has allowed me to be a teacher for RUSD and my husband to work as an assistant educator with middle schoolers. Together, we own a photography business. We currently own our home, are members of a church, and pay our taxes. Without DACA, I would not be able to serve this country as an educator for our future generations nor be able to provide for my family. We would also not be able to have a license and drive legally. I hope to become a principal, own my own business, and become a citizen in order to travel and visit my family in Mexico. A leader is followed not only by what they say but how they act. Sometimes our leaders in our country look down on immigrants which has been difficult at times being an immigrant myself. Other times the leaders like us for the hard work and more affordable labor. During the Holocaust, families were torn apart. Not only does this continue to happen at the border but at any point when an immigrant is on the radar. Strong families are the backbone of America. Empower my family to continue strengthening our communities by creating a permanent solution, a pathway to citizenship for all.”

Ilse Merlin Tiburcio and Pablo Enriquez, DACA recipients.

Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) also acknowledged the 10th anniversary of DACA, talking to Janeth Stancle, a member of the Colorado outreach program who benefited from the DACA program. Their conversation was about the importance of DACA and why there needs to be a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

“If you fight for my children, I will fight for your nation,” said DACA recipient, Janeth Stancle in the interview with Hickenlooper.

DACA has been opposed by conservatives who often argue that no group of immigrants who crossed the border illegally, even children, should be given special treatment in the immigration process.