Slacker’s Syllabus: Meet the DREAMers

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Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, in 2012.

It allows undocumented people who came to the United States as kids to continue living, working, and studying here.

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DACA recipients are often referred to as DREAMers, a name that comes from a piece of legislation known as the DREAM Act.

The act would have enshrined into law these protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Unfortunately, the DREAM Act failed to pass Congress, so Obama created DACA as a stopgap safety measure.

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In order to qualify for DACA, applicants must have arrived in the U.S. before 2007, and have no serious criminal record.

Once enrolled, any action to deport them is deferred for two years.

653,000

Number of DACA recipients currently in the U.S.

National Immigration Forum

DACA doesn't provide a pathway to citizenship or help recipients gain legal status.

However, it does at least let undocumented people get driver's licenses, college assistance, and other things they may not have had access to before.

80%

Percentage of DACA recipients born in Mexico. The next top countries are El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru.

USCIS.gov

We’ve covered the basics. Now what?

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Most of the media coverage around DACA tends to focus on non-Black Latinx people. And you might think that's justified!

After all, they make up the majority of DACA recipients, right?

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Wrong.

Birth country doesn't tell you anything about what race people are. Mexicans make up the majority of DACA recipients, sure. Are they white Mexicans? Black? Indigenous?

We don’t know.

True, there aren't many DACA recipients from African and Caribbean countries.

There's a reason for this: The Black Alliance for Just Immigration noted in a 2020 report that only 3% and 2% of African and Caribbean populations, respectively, were immediately eligible for DACA.

DACA hasn’t had an easy go of it.

In 2017, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared DACA illegal. The fight went all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was ultimately upheld in a 2020 ruling.

Wait, so if DACA is saved, aren't DREAMers protected?

If only it were that simple.

Trump's attacks on DREAMers and DACA are just part of the U.S.'s long history of white supremacy and xenophobia. So yes, DACA exists today, but its status will always be less than secure in a white supremacist nation.