Equity and Accountability: The DACA Dilemma and Immigrant Youth
DACA: Empowering a Better Life for Undocumented Youth
Should one be held accountable for the acts and/or decisions of others? As a minor, most, if not all, of our decisions are made by our parents, including where we live and relocating. Many immigrants did not choose to move to a new country illegally. It was something their parents chose, perhaps to give them a better life, education, or economy. What they did not notice was that bringing them illegally came with a handful of roadblocks, as not having a social security number prevents them from getting health insurance, a job, attending college, traveling, getting a driver’s license, and many other things.
DACA was a program that gave a chance to children brought (by their parents) to the United States illegally to acquire legal status so they could work or go to school and live a normal life. Unfortunately, this program has been canceled. This is found to be unfair as many foreigners find America to be the land of equality, yet some immigrant children are not treated equally nor have the same rights. Who are we to deny an equal lifestyle to someone who had no say in “breaking the law” by coming into the United States illegally? Not only does DACA provoca a better life for these innocent immigrants, but it also provides a large sum of income to the government/country.
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Undocumented Immigrants’ Contribution to the U.S. Economy
An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants reside in the United States. They account for one-fourth of the foreign-born population, 5% of the labor force, and are responsible for almost 3% of GDP. Many of these immigrants are undocumented youth who were brought to the United States as children. While undocumented youth have a constitutional right to K-12 public education, they come to face the realities of their illegality as they transition into adulthood. Undocumented immigrants in the United States cannot legally work or vote and are under threat of deportation.
Dilemma of Undocumented Youth: Parents’ Actions vs. Their Aspirations
The youth known as dreamers and, in many cases, DACA attendees present a unique dilemma for policymakers since their lack of legal status often results from the actions of their parents, not themselves. According to MPI, “immigration is arguably more intertwined with education and training fields today than any other time in recent.
For this reason, DACA plays a special role in improving education outcomes and career preparation. One example is the special role of adult education programs that provide an opportunity for individuals who lack a high school education or equivalent but surpass the age and need criteria to qualify for DACA protection.
DACA: The Lifeline for Aspiring Americans
The United States is a nation of immigrants; it is a nation where the American dream is obtainable to hard-working families immigrating for a life better than the one they left behind. Children grow up American even if they are not legally citizens. DACA students are our next-door neighbors, teammates, friends, and family. They are the people who lived on the margins of this country until President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order gave them a sense of hope. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was created by President Obama via executive action, and Congress has not yet codified DACA into law. Therefore, it is important to note that future administrations have the direction to continue, suspend, or modify the program. During his campaign, Donald Trump pledged to terminate the program, which would take away the protection of DACA’s participants. Thus far, President Trump has let the immigration policy continue, although there has been a push by conservative states to end the program.
- Passel, J. S., & Cohn, D. (2016). Unauthorized Immigrant Totals Rise in 7 States, Fall in 14: Pew Research Center.
- Edwards, R. S., & Ortega, F. (2016). The Economic Contribution of Unauthorized Workers: An Industry Analysis: Cato Institute.
- Gonzales, R. G. (2011). Learning to Be Illegal: Undocumented Youth and Shifting Legal Contexts in the Transition to Adulthood: American Sociological Review, 76(4), 602-619. DOI: 10.1177/0003122411416936
- Gonzales, R. G., Terriquez, V., & Ruszczyk, S. P. (2014). Becoming DACAmented: Assessing the Short-Term Benefits of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): American Behavioral Scientist, 58(14), 1852-1872. DOI: 10.1177/0002764214532930
- Wong, T. M., Kim, T. E., & Misa-Escalante, K. (2013). In the Shadows of the Law: The Legal Socialization of Undocumented Mexican Immigrants: Law & Society Review, 47(1), 5-37. DOI: 10.1111/lasr.12004
- Hooker, S., McHugh, M., & Mathay, J. (2015). Adult Education and Immigration: A Review of Recent Research: Migration Policy Institute.
- Kopan, T. (2017). Trump administration will not shut door on DACA recipients, CNN Politics.