Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Turns One, But Not Everyone Celebrates

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It has been a year since President Obama signed an executive order protecting DREAM Act-eligible youth from being deported. The order instructed the Department of Homeland Security not to deport undocumented immigrants that arrived in the United States before the age of 16, lived in the country for five years, and are enrolled in school or are military veterans.

In its first year, 58% of those estimated eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) have applied. According to a Brookings Institution study released last Wednesday, more than 557,400 DREAMers have applied for deportation relief as of June 2013. Approximately 74 percent — more than 400,000 DREAMers — have had their applications accepted, with additional cases pending review. Overall, only one percent of applicants have been denied.

United We Dream has even introduced a “Pocket DACA” mobile app:

But with all these recent steps being taken, why does the Obama administration continue setting new records for deporting people?

Read more after the jump.For the fourth year in a row, the Obama administration set a record for the number of people it deported. In 2012, the total reached 409,849.

Although President Obama supports creating a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants, his administration deported a record 1.5 million of them in his first term. At this rate, reports show that 2 million people will be deported by 2014 — more than the total number of deportations before 1997.

While 55 percent, or roughly 225,000 people, deported in 2012 were convicted of crimes such as drug offenses and driving under the influence, perhaps as many as 100,000 also deported — aside from their undocumented status — were law-abiding people. Included among these figures continue to be DREAMers.

“I make no apologies for us enforcing the law as well as the work that we've done to strengthen border security,” Obama was quoted saying early this year in an interview with Telemundo, as he promoted his plan to fight for reform this year.

Obama did lament he cannot halt deportations until immigration reform efforts are concluded, but that new legislation would attempt to address the issue of removals.

Yet Republicans on the other side of the issue are not waiting around and are creating new obstacles for Democrats to deal with in the meantime.

Early this summer, the House voted to resume deporting young DREAM Act immigrants. The amendment sponsored by anti-immigrant zealot U.S. Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) would prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement from implementing the President's 2012 executive order protecting DREAMers from deportation.

While the issue of immigration is complex, it is important to note Democrats have resources they can use today and do not have to wait until the GOP is forced to compromise on immigration. Earlier this month, we covered a piece of how U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) saved a Texas mother from deportation and from being separated of her son. Doggett only had to send a letter of support to ICE on behalf of the mother.

Why aren't more Democrats doing the same?

Why were there 100,000 non-criminal people deported in 2012 — including potential DACA candidates? Where were the Democrats wanting to champion immigration reform then? What actions are they taking now?

For it's first year, DACA has had its success. Research indicates that DACA opens up some economic opportunities for young aspiring Americans. But there's clearly a lot more work left to be done. Almost half of all potential candidates have not yet been reached. And, of course, DACA does not address the constant fear of deportation that their family members will still face.

Texas is one of the states with most to gain, as there are 11,000 DACA candidates living in the state.

It is pivotal for Democrats not only continue to talk-the-talk but walk-the-walk. There is a lot more at stake than just recapturing control of the House or keeping control of the Senate or crushing Republicans with the help of Latinos in future presidential elections — there are also peoples' lives on the line here, that need help this very moment. DACA, however successful, is only but one step.


About Author

Omar Araiza

Staff writer Omar Araiza covers immigration, Latino voters, the U.S.-Mexico border, and LGBT issues. He is a proud South Texas native, born and raised in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Omar tweets from @AraizaTX.

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