The Endangerment of Dreamers

Samantha Ramirez, Writer

Recently, President Biden has signed an executive order calling for the preservation of the DACA program, after former President Trump attempted to terminate it in December of 2020. The DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Program helps protect eligible undocumented youth who arrived in the United States as children from deportation, as well as provides them with work authorization and possible annual renewal. DACA was installed in 2012 by the Obama administration and has yet to escape criticism. In order to request DACA, applicants must have been under the age of 31 years, been physically present in the United States, and have had no lawful status as of June 15, 2012; and as of the date the request for deferred action is filed, applicants must have resided continuously in the United States (since 6/15/07), came to the United States prior to their 16th birthday, been physically present in the United States and enrolled in school or possess a GED, or had been an honorably discharged veteran of the US armed forces. Not to mention an application fee of $495. Though DACA does allow for renewals and allows for undocumented youth to hold a job legally, climb up the socioeconomic ladder and have a sense of stability in their lives, they are not provided with a path to citizenship, something that could prove detrimental to young undocunmented people had they not renewed in time or not been accepted for a renewal. 


As of March 2021, there are 616,030 Dreamers, or active DACA recipients in the United States. However, as many as 3.6 million Dreamers are residing in the United States who did not apply for DACA or aged out of the program, meaning they remain unprotected and at risk of separation from their families and work. A majority of these recipients are of Hispanic descent, with 496,700 being from Mexico, 23,810 being from El Salvador, 16,140 being from Guatemala, and 5,840 from Peru. A majority of DACA recipients,(175,530 people) reside in California.  Similarly, 73.9% of the city of Downey is Hispanic, according to the 2021-22 Downey City Profile. Additionally, 107% of Downey residents were born outside of the United States. 202,500 of DACA recipients are recognized as “essential critical infrastructure workers”. They work as nurses, psychiatric,home health, and personal care aides, medical and dental assistants, teachers, food production, distribution, and processing, and grocery store operations. The presence of Dreamers cannot and should not go unnoticed, they are a fiscal part of our community and contribute greatly to our economy.  Over the next ten years, Dreamers currently under DACA are projected to contribute $433.4 billion dollars to the GDP of the United States and $12.3 billion in taxes. If DACA gets taken away, they lose many things: their sense of stability and security, their families, jobs, etc. 


A very important law resource is available right here in the City of Downey. Ferias Legales is a Downey based non-profit organization that hosts monthly community legal clinics in partnership with our very own Downey Councilmember Mario Trujillo. Here, people can get help with any problems concerning immigration law, family law, criminal defense, civil rights, and personal injuries. As for those wishing to become U.S. citizens, Ferias Legales is providing immigration attorneys who will be screening for eligibility, assisting with fee waiver applications, etc. Upcoming clinics are scheduled for Saturdays on the following dates: October 16, November 20, and December 18th from 10:30-1:30 pm at the Barbara J. Riley Community Center. Volunteers are also welcome! 


Two of our very own Downey High Students also had much to say on this topic. 


When asked her opinion on the preservation of DACA, Daniela Varela, 12, said “I believe that the DACA program is very useful to those who want to receive an education and have a more steady future. Being a child of immigrants, it’s important to me that immigrants have a chance to better their lives in a country that’ll help support them, because I wished my parents had the opportunity to make their lives a little easier as they migrated to America.”


Additionally, Denise Rodriguez, 12, had this to say,“ I support the DACA program because it is very helpful towards immigrants who wish to have an education since it is very difficult to gain a career in a country like Mexico. My father himself, is an immigrant who struggled to get an education while also trying to support his family financially. I’m grateful for those who have the opportunity to work and get an education without the constant fear of deportation looming over them”. 


In summation, immigrants are an essential part of our community and country as a whole. They come to the United States in search of a better life and more opportunities and in the land of opportunity it’d be unjust to deprive people of it.