DACA is the Dreamers’ lifeline

Demonstrators protest the elimination of DACA at a September 2017 gathering at UC Berkeley. (Photo: Sheila Fitzgerald)

Adriana and her six-year old daughter are like two peas in a pod, taking walks on the beach together, baking brownies, cuddling at home with a book, and occasionally splurging on a trip to Orange County’s Disneyland Resort.

Arriving from Guatemala when she was five years old, Adriana has always lived here in Orange County. Today, Adriana attends Fullerton College where she is working to get her degree in psychology. She also works full time in the office of a local school district that provides a stable salary, pension, and health benefits for herself and daughter.  Adriana hopes to get a master’s degree in education so that she can teach in a local elementary school where she grew up.

DACA has allowed more than 50,000 parents in California to be stronger and more stable breadwinners and caregivers.

Adriana’s lives in fear of what might happen when her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) expires. She will lose her work authorization and with it her job and her protection from deportation. Her daughter, her “whole world,” could lose her mom.

Adriana is not alone. The DACA program has been a lifeline not only for Dreamers themselves, but also for their children. One out of every four DACA recipients is also a parent.

Thousands of immigrants in California have already lost DACA protections.  And every day that passes, hundreds more nationwide lose the protections of DACA. When a parent like Adriana loses DACA, she loses her ability to work, support her family, and contribute fully to her community.  But Adriana could also lose something more profound, a future with her daughter. Without DACA, Adriana will be vulnerable to detention or deportation that could separate her from her daughter.

DACA has allowed more than 50,000 parents in California to be stronger and more stable breadwinners and caregivers. After receiving DACA, more than 2 out of 3 people reported moving to a job with better pay, with hourly wages increasing by 69 percent, from $10.29 per hour to $17.46 per hour. These funds will help keep a safe roof over children’s heads, healthy meals on the table, and provide the economic stability kids need to focus on school.

Parents are also healthier and safer because of DACA. Nearly two out of three DACA recipients have access to employer-based health coverage, which they risk losing when their work authorization expires.  And, more than half of DACA recipients reported moving to a job with better working conditions that more likely supports their career goals. Healthy and safe parents are more stable caregivers, providing children the love and care they need to develop and thrive.

Children whose parents are deported face hardships that lead to reduced school attainment, social exclusion, greater difficulty maintaining relationships, and lower earnings as adults. When parents are no longer afraid of being detained or deported, children can thrive. A study by researchers at Stanford University showed that DACA resulted in more than a 50 percent drop of certain mental health issues like anxiety disorders among the children of DACA recipients.

We need to ask ourselves: Do we want to live in a nation where children like Adriana’s daughter lose their parents, when we had the power to provide a child a loving, stable, home?  For Children Now and those that want children prioritized in this state, the overwhelming and clear answer is no!  It is time for Congress to move forward and pass the Dream Act.

Ed’s Note: Ted Lempert is the president of Children Now. 

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