What is DACA and Who are the DREAMers?

Table Talk: Family Conversations about Current Events
  • For Educators
    For Parents, Families, and Caregivers
  • 11 and up
President Obama and VP Joe Biden Meet with DREAMers

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Topic Summary

On September 5, 2017, President Trump ordered an end to the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program shields some young undocumented immigrants —who often arrived at a very young age in circumstances beyond their control—from deportation. In 2012, President Obama issued the DACA executive order after the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act did not pass in Congress several times. The young people impacted by DACA and the DREAMAct are often referred to as “DREAMers.”

In making the announcement, Attorney General Sessions announced that the Trump Administration was ending the DACA program. President Trump also urged Congress to pass a replacement before the administration begins phasing out DACA’s protections in six months. This means that as early as March 2018, some of the 800,000 young adults brought to the U.S. as children who qualify for the program, will become eligible for deportation and lose access to education and work visas. Attorney General Sessions asserted that “the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.”

The recipients of DACA are young people who have grown up as Americans, identify themselves as Americans, and many speak only English and have no memory of or connection with the country where they were born. Under current immigration law, most of these young people had no way to gain legal residency even though they have lived in the U.S. most of their lives. Many DREAMers say they didn’t know they were unauthorized immigrants until they were teenagers—often when they discovered they couldn’t join their peers in getting a driver’s license or filling out financial aid forms for college because they didn’t have Social Security numbers. The DREAM Act would have provided a pathway to U.S. citizenship to certain undocumented youth who go to college and/or serve in the military while maintaining a good record.

DACA enables certain people who came to the U.S. as children and meet several key guidelines to request consideration for deferred action. It allows non-U.S. citizens who qualify to remain in the country for two years, subject to renewal. Recipients are eligible for work authorization and other benefits, and are shielded from deportation. The fee to request DACA is $495 every two years.

Since DACA began, 787,580 people have been approved for the program. To be eligible, applicants had to have arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and lived here since June 15, 2007. They could not have been older than 30 when the Department of Homeland Security enacted the policy in 2012. DACA applicants have to provide evidence they were living in the U.S. at the prescribed times, proof of education and confirmation of their identities. They also had to pass background, fingerprint and other biometric checks that record identifying biological features.

DACA is largely seen as successful and has assisted young people in a variety of ways. A 2017 national study revealed that 91% of DACA respondents are currently employed. Their average hourly wage is $17.46 an hour, up from $10.29 before receiving DACA. Forty-five percent of respondents are currently in school and among those currently in school, 72% are pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher. Nearly 80% of respondents said they obtained driver's licenses, which is also a public safety improvement for all people.

Voters from all political parties overwhelmingly support allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to stay in the country, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll. Fifty-eight percent of voters think DREAMers should be allowed to stay and become citizens if they meet certain requirements. Another 18% think they should be allowed to stay and become legal residents, not citizens. Fifteen percent think they should be removed or deported.

To learn more about DREAMers and how they have benefited from DACA, see Define American.

Age

11 and up

Questions to Start the Conversation

  • What do you understand about DACA, what do your friends know, and are you seeing anything online about it?
  • After learning more about it, what are your thoughts and feelings about DACA?
  • Why do you think the Trump administration wants to eliminate DACA?
  • What do you think will happen to DACA recipients if Congress can’t come up with an alternative plan?
  • Why do you think DACA recipients refer to themselves as “DREAMers?”

Questions to Dig Deeper

  • What do you think it means to be ‘American?’ (ask after watching videos)
  • What will be the consequences when DACA is eliminated?
  • Do you know anyone who is impacted by DACA and if so, how can we support them?

(The "Related to this Resource" provides articles and information that address these questions.)

Ideas for Taking Action

Ask: What can we do to help? What individual and group actions might make a difference?

  • Help to organize an educational forum in school to discuss DACA. Make connections to immigration, undocumented immigrants and other issues of racial justice.
  • Write a letter to your representative in Congress that expresses your views about DACA. You can use this link to find your representative.
  • Get involved in local or national activism around issues of immigration, the DREAMAct and DREAMers. Some national organizations include: Define American, United We Dream and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

Additional Resources