The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy was recently in the headlines due to various new legal challenges to strike the policy down. In response, President Joe Biden’s administration has announced plans to reinforce this policy.
DACA, which was first implemented in 2012 as an executive order, provides undocumented individuals with benefits such as valid U.S. work authorization, a valid Social Security number, the ability to travel within the U.S., and security against deportation.
To apply, the program requires applicants to have arrived in the United States under the age of 16, have resided continuously in the U.S. for five years before June 2012, have not been convicted of a felony, and have enrolled in or graduated from a high school/GED equivalent or have been honorably discharged member of the military.
The most recent legal challenge that DACA faced was in the July 2021 court case, The State of Texas v. The United States of America. Federal Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas blocked the policy, claiming it to be illegal, therefore preventing any new applicants while thousands in the U.S. still waited to apply.
In an interview with The UCSD Guardian, Daniel Alfaro, the program manager at Undocumented Student Services, said that DACA continues to be a contested issue because of its nature amid political divides regarding citizenship.
“It comes down to politics and, sadly, undocumented families have been a bargaining chip for many years,” Alfaro said. “This is very unfortunate for undocumented students, including those with DACA, because they have an education and the potential to do so much for this country, but that is hampered without the option to have a pathway to citizenship.”
In response, a new rule was announced by Biden on Sept. 27 that aims to protect DACA and reaffirm its commitment to protecting young undocumented individuals or “dreamers” from deportation. The rule works to fortify the deferred action for those who came to the U.S. as young children and to provide a much more detailed and in-depth description of DACA and its benefits.
The University of California has a history dealing with the legality of DACA. In a 2017 court case against the Department of Homeland Security, the UC Board of Regents sued the DHS for its decision to rescind DACA and how it would not just affect the students, but the community as a whole.
“The United States, and the University, have benefited enormously from the presence of the Dreamers, accomplished young men, and women who are our students, and colleagues, and neighbors,” The UC Board of Regents said in their lawsuit. “They are Americans, a fact that Defendants’ precipitous decision cannot change.”
For undocumented students, DACA provides security through its protections and grants them the ability to study at institutions of high learning. DACA allows undocumented students to apply to the UC system which as of 2019 had approximately 4,000 enrolled.
In a statement released in 2016, the UC system reaffirmed its commitment to continue admitting students regardless of a series of factors such as race, religion, and immigration status.
“The University of California welcomes and supports students without regard to their immigration status”, the statement read. In other words, undocumented applicants with or without DACA status will be considered for admission on the same basis as any U.S. citizen or other applicants.”
To support their admitted, undocumented students, the UC system offers a variety of different services such as immigration legal services, DACA renewals, and free legal assistance are available to both students and their families.
Since 2013, the UC system has also issued various programs and initiatives targeted at supporting students of undocumented status. The Undocumented Student’s Initiative passed in 2013 is an example of steps taken to provide financial and student services that are geared towards the needs of undocumented students. In this case, the initiative provided the UC system with the necessary funding and services to support undocumented students in their respective situations.
For UC San Diego students, the campus provides its students with different programs and amenities to support the students during their time at the university. The Undocumented Students Services Center provides students with one-on-one consultations as well as immigration legal services to discuss questions regarding status.
“Our unit provides students an array of services, programs, and a physical space that supports their retention and success,” Alfaro said. “We are committed to serving students through a holistic approach that encompasses personal guidance, immigration legal services, community building, partnerships, and referrals. Our programs and services are designed to help students overcome obstacles that arise from their immigration status and support them through personal and academic excellence.”
Alfaro reaffirms, however, that the office on campus gives adequate attention to each individual student and their unique experience navigating the issues that arise.
“We are a small team and rely tremendously on our amazing interns to run our operations and provide individualized support,” Alfaro said. “Our students do not have cookie-cutter issues and many see us for support with complex situations they are experiencing. Every year, every quarter I’m surprised by the things we see with our students but we never shy away from doing all we can to help our students be in a better place.”
Students are encouraged to leave a comment here to voice their opinions on DACA, which is open until Nov. 29. Students can also find a summary of the Undocumented Student Services’ Office’s programs here, visit their official website here, or visit their office on the fifth floor of the Student Services Center in room 518.
Photo via Reuters