Does DACA Include All Dreamers? (Spoiler Alert: It Doesn’t)
While we welcome everyone to read this, this post is intended for those who are unfamiliar with the U.S. immigration system, its laws, and how it affects the group commonly known as “Documented Dreamers.”
The DREAM Act — The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act — was introduced in 2001 by Senator Dick Durbin and Senator Orrin Hatch. While it did not pass despite several reintroductions, it gave way to a beacon of hope for hundreds of thousands who came to the United States of children but were at risk of deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program was started during the Obama administration in 2012.
What is DACA?
Under the DACA program, children of undocumented residents who meet a list of criteria, could be considered for a two year period of deferred action from deportation. They can also receive work authorization for that deferred period.
Who can be considered for DACA?
Here is a graphic that briefly defines the requirements that an applicant must meet in order to be considered eligible for the DACA program:
According to the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), as of March 2020, there are more than 712,000 active DACA recipients. These, however, do not include many of the 200,000-plus Documented Dreamers, who meet all the requirements except for one — not having lawful status (requirement 7 on Figure 1.0). According to the Migration Policy Institute, without the requirement of having unlawful presence in the U. S, between 30,000 and 75,000 Documented Dreamers would’ve qualified for the DACA program.
The reason for their lawful status is that Documented Dreamers hold long-term, dependent visas. Aside from this key difference, there are many similarities between Documented and Undocumented Dreamers. For example, mostly all Dreamers lack work authorization. It is also difficult to obtain a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license. Similar to Undocumented Dreamers, Documented Dreamers too, face the possibility of deportation after losing their dependent visa status.
Apart from these tangible struggles, all Dreamers deal with some level of an identity crisis. In every sense but on paper, these individuals consider themselves to be American at heart. According to USA Today, the average age that an Undocumented Dreamer is brought to the U.S. is six. Similarly, the average age a Documented Dreamer is brought here is five. Having grown up in the American education system, these children have recited the Pledge of Allegiance, celebrated countless 4th of July’s, and are possibly more knowledgeable about American history than the history of their country of origin.
Going Forward: Dream & Promise Act
Nearly 90% of Americans believe that Dreamers deserve to stay in the United States, the only country they know as home. It is safe to say that this issue has bipartisan support as seen with the passing of the Dream & Promise Act in the House in March 2021. This piece of legislation included both, Undocumented and Documented Dreamers.
All Dreamers, Undocumented and Documented alike, have gone through similar struggles and are working towards the same goal. For the Senate version of the Dream Act, Documented Dreamers are not included in the text. Improve the Dream urges lawmakers in the Senate to consider the stories of Documented Dreamers and the situation we are in.
Here’s what you can do to help:
- Send a letter to your Senator to include Documented Dreamers in the Dream and Promise Act
- Learn more about the Dream and Promise Act
- Call your Senators using THIS template
Additionally, we urge the Biden administration to include Documented Dreamers in updated deferred action and any other related policies. Regardless of immigration status, every child brought to the U.S. and has called this country their home deserves a pathway to citizenship.
Improve The Dream is a youth-led advocacy organization bringing awareness for over 200,000 children of long-term visa holders who face self-deportation, despite growing up in the United States with a documented status.
If you know someone who is a Documented Dreamer, please share the following link so they can join our advocacy community to stay updated and connect with other Documented Dreamers: ImproveTheDream.org/survey.