On DACA’s 10th anniversary, immigrants celebrate wins, continue pushing for citizenship for all

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June 15 marks ten years since former President Barack Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, one of the most significant immigration-related policies of the last three decades. It was a victory powered by undocumented youth, who were told that what they were demanding was not possible. But they knew it was possible and kept pushing.

Ten years later, DACA is still mostly in effect. It survived a rescission by the previous administration, thanks again to the activism of young immigrants, who took their fight all the way to the Supreme Court and won. But despite the popularity of the program, anti-immigrant Republicans like corrupt official Ken Paxton continued attacking the policy, taking their lawsuit to a window-shopped judge in Texas. While Andrew Hanen is allowing DACA renewals to continue, all new applications have been halted. 

Yes, the past decade is a story of people-power and beating seemingly insurmountable odds. But it’s also simply unacceptable that applicants, prospective applicants, and their families remain in limbo a decade later.

RELATED STORY: Biden calls for permanent relief, including through reconciliation, after judge rules against DACA

“DACA was always intended to be a ‘temporary stop-gap measure’ according to President Obama, who said, ‘This is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, this is not a permanent fix,’” writes Hina Naveed, a DACA recipient with Human Rights Watch. The program confers two-year work permits and protection from deportation. “However, despite widespread support for better protections, Congress has failed to take action in the last decade, leaving the 800,000 of us who have DACA protections in limbo and tens of thousands more vulnerable to deportation.”

Legislation has passed the House under Democratic leadership, only to die in the Senate under the Jim Crow filibuster. Despite both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris endorsing the passage of permanent protections through the reconciliation process, an unelected Senate staffer rejected the proposal (and several others). Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough may have worked to deport immigrants when she served as a prosecutor roughly two decades ago, Pablo Manríquez reported for Latino Rebels.

But immigrants and their allies are not giving up. As the Biden administration is set to go back to court next month to appeal Hanen’s ruling, program beneficiaries and advocates are marking the tenth anniversary on Wednesday by saying the fight to protect all undocumented communities, and not only DACA recipients, must continue.

We are marching down the streets of Washington DC right now. It’s been 10 years of DACA, but our communities need more. DACA is NOT enough! Our home is here! pic.twitter.com/btybQK0Vv0

— United We Dream (@UNITEDWEDREAM) June 15, 2022

“Both of my siblings are essential workers, and all three of us remain at risk of deportation so long as there is no pathway to citizenship,” said FWD.us Senior Social Media Associate Diego Huaman in a statement received by Daily Kos. “To put it simply: DACA is not enough,” Huaman writes, adding that legislation must recognize “the contributions of immigrant families like mine and secures our futures in the only home we have ever known.”

Daniela Chomba, People Operations & Office Manager for the organization, said that she hoped the anniversary “highlights the urgency of legislative action.”

“The odds that DACA renewals are halted in the weeks ahead are severe as the Fifth Circuit takes up the legality of DACA,” Chomba said in the statement. “Congress’s failure once again to find a pathway to incredibly popular, commonsense legislation over the last two decades is beyond disappointing.” Bambadjan Bamba, DACA recipient and actor known for roles in Black Panther and The Good Place, tweeted that he was “reminded of how we fought like hell & survived the trump admin & how we’re back in the courts again fighting for the program. This limbo will never end unless we get a permanent solution.”

16 years in movement. 12 years since the 2010 Dream Act loss (Ds fell 5 votes short). 10 years since our DACA win & 2 years since our victory at SCOTUS have taught me the power of ENDURANCE as a compounding political force We are Undocumented Unafraid Trans/Queer & Here to stay! pic.twitter.com/FP5hBqp7m1

— Greisa🧡🌈💥🦋 (@GreisaMartinez) June 14, 2022

“Ten years ago, young undocumented people fearlessly risked arrest and potential deportation as we organized to stop the pain our communities were facing from the deportation forces of [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] ICE and [Customs and Border Protection] CBP,” said United We Dream Executive Director Greisa Martinez Rosas in a statement received by Daily Kos. “We pressured President Obama to enact DACA and secured the most significant win of the immigrant rights movement in decades.”

But she said that DACA has been used “as a band-aid instead of delivering lasting protections for over 800,000 of us who are stuck in a state of legal limbo and millions more in our communities who never qualified for DACA protections in the first place.” Among them is entrepreneur Tolu Olubunmi, who missed qualifying for DACA by just a couple of months. Olubunmi was in the historic TIME cover that featured undocumented Americans.

“Today, as both the TIME magazine cover story and DACA turn 10, I celebrate the hard-fought-for Greencard that now has me on a road towards that outward manifestation,” Olubunmi tweeted. “I also celebrate the millions of lives changed and dreams realized because of that moment a decade ago. And, I remember all those who were and are still left out,” she continued. Olubunmi said she remembers “those whose daily protest is simply to live to strive another day.”

10 years ago today, I was on the cover of @TIME magazine. During my interview for that historic cover about the DREAM Act, I said “for me, US citizenship would be an outward manifestation of an inward truth.” 🧵 pic.twitter.com/pgEAzDXrPp

— Tolu (@Tolu_Olubunmi) June 15, 2022

“The stakes continue to be high,” Martinez Rosas continued in her statement. “The forces working against us are not shy about what they want: to end DACA and put all immigrants on a path towards deportation.  Immigrant youth and our families will continue to fight unapologetically. We need elected leaders to do their job and pass permanent legislation now.”

Both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have met with DACA recipients. Beneficiaries met with the president in May 2021, only the second time since 2015 that DACA recipients have met with a president at the Oval Office. Beneficiaries also met with the vice president following Hanen’s ruling. “[W]e reminded her of the urgency of this moment,” Martinez Rosas said at the time.

“Ten years ago today, I stood by President Obama as we carried out one of our proudest accomplishments,” the president said in a tweet. “On this 10th DACA Anniversary, we celebrate the transformational impact it’s had on hundreds of thousands of young people. It’s time for Congress to make this permanent now.” The vice president wrote in her tweet that she wanted “every Dreamer to know that we have your back. Your home is here, and we will continue fighting for you.”

Click here to donate and help protect immigrant youth from deportation.

RELATED STORIES:

Biden admin announces new rule to protect DACA program as Republican-led court challenge continues

‘Our stories are of suffering and fear, but also of hope’: DACA recipients meet with Harris

House passes path to citizenship for DACA recipients, temporary status holders, and farmworkers

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