On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive memorandum calling on the secretary of Homeland Security to take appropriate action to “preserve and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
According to Undocumented Student Services Senior Coordinator Mecir Ureta Rivera, about 4% of Cal Poly Pomona students are DACA beneficiaries, and while Biden’s early actions are welcome news for the undocumented student community, they also come after years of uncertainty.
“The reinstatement of DACA is another milestone for the community, but it’s also part of this long journey that feels like a rollercoaster because one day we’re up and then in another second it comes down,” Ureta Rivera said.
Although the eligibility requirements are strict, the Migration Policy Institute estimates that around 366,000 people in California are eligible for DACA and only 184,170 are recipients based on June 2020 data.
Although a lot of uncertainty still revolves around the program, DACA recipient and fourth-year chemistry student Marcos Rafael Bello said he hopes for a concrete and stable solution soon.
“Having DACA makes me feel like I’m a regular U.S. citizen,” said Bello. “I can drive a car, go to work, go to school, do my taxes and have a social security number. It really helps.”
CPP’s Undocumented Student Services offers legal services through a partnership with the Central American Resource Center, a legal team that is also assigned to each California State University campus.
“DACA means a lot more opportunities for those students who are completely undocumented and missed out on applying for it. It opens up lots of doors not only academically but also personally,” said CARECEN Staff Attorney Elda Rosales. “They’re able to have a work permit, they’re able to financially support themselves and they’re also able to be protected from deportation so they don’t have to live in the shadows,” she added.
On his first day in office, Biden also proposed the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021to Congress. If adopted, the bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented immigrants including DACA recipients and Temporary Protected Status holders. It would also change the term “alien” to “noncitizen” in immigration law with the goal to stop using dehumanizing terms against undocumented individuals.
Although this bill has been proposed, as of Jan. 30 it has yet to be formally introduced to Congress. And despite narrow Democratic control of both chambers, Republican opposition makes it unlikely the bill, in its current form, could surpass the filibuster threshold of 60 Senate votes.
“In the end, the reinstatement of DACA is wonderful news but obviously it’s still not an answer because it doesn’t lead to citizenship so we’re still fighting for the bigger picture, but this is a good start,” said Leslie Montes Lucano, coordinator for Undocumented Student Services.
In order to be eligible for DACA, applicants must have entered the United States prior to turning 16 and prior to June 15, 2007, with proof of continuous residency in the country since and applicants must have graduated or currently be enrolled in high school or have obtained a general education certificate. Applicants should not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more other misdemeanors.
CPP students who are eligible for DACA and are first-time applicants or want to renew their application are encouraged by the Undocumented Student Services to schedule an appointmentwith their CARECEN legal team. Their services are open to students, staff, faculty and their immediate families for free.