Why DACA Matters

“If I could work—even a little—it would help my brother who is supporting me and my little sister.”

In our video The JFON DREAMers in their own words, we see but a sampling of the young DACAmented clients the JFON network has helped over the last five years. They tell us of their plans to go to college, join the military, and have successful careers. They express their hopes to be of service to their communities, their adopted country, and the world. We hear their longing to belong and to be recognized as Americans.

But another, more prosaic, reason why DACA matters so much to our clients is found in an open-ended question on the I-765 Worksheet submitted to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). Applicants are asked to explain why they need work authorization.

“My dad is sick. He has diabetes and I want to be able to help him pay for his medicine and other bills at home.”

We’ve collected a lot of these statements from our clients over the years. Some of them expound on their goals and ambitions:

“I need to work to save for college,” they begin, followed by the expressed desire to become—a nurse, a teacher, a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer, a diplomat. One young man expressed himself simply and poignantly:

One constant that runs through many of their statements is the worry and concern for their parents.  Some of these applicants are still teenagers in high school, yet they are keenly aware of their elders’ struggles and sacrifices:

“I know my parents are having a rough time with the economy. I want to help them pay the rent and buy food.”

 “Helping my grandma pay for her medication would be the nicest thing I could ever do.” 

 Many of the DACAmented who were young adults in 2012—or who have since become young adults five years later—are now working to support their own children. Many others support parents, siblings, relatives both here and back in the country of their birth:

 I am the cashier and food runner at a local deli and make approximately $8.00 an hour.  I need to have more work. I send back money to Honduras to help support my mom, dad, and two sisters.”

“My mother and I work to support my younger brother, who has cerebral palsy.”

For many of our DACA clients, security, the ability to wake up in the morning and know they will return to that same place in the evening—this is what truly matters the most; even if that security is doled out two years at a time.

This benefit of DACA has gained greater urgency during the current administration, which has stated that all undocumented immigrants are priorities for deportation. The statements below were written way back in 2012 and to read them now is to feel, once again, the ever-present menace of living in perilous times.

 “I have a daughter and want to start building her future. I would like to not be deported and have to leave my family behind.”  

“DACA will cease my fear of being deported and I would feel more safe and not so scared because I can prove to anyone that I can be in the U.S.A.”