Dreamers Are Essential To America. Let Them Become Citizens

By Richard Barth

Nearly one million young people who are eligible for deportation protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) have no viable path to citizenship in the country they’ve called home since childhood. Since DACA was established in 2012, the program has faced repeated challenges in the courts and been used as a political pawn.

At KIPP, we have thousands of students, parents, teachers, and community members whose lives are defined by this uncertainty. Thanks to DACA, they can work, study, and give back to their communities. But without the security of a concrete path to citizenship, they exist in a constant state of limbo, wondering every day whether even these temporary protections will be stripped away. Congress needs to act today to create a path to citizenship for Dreamers—not just because it’s the principled thing to do, but also because it’s good for our country.

In total, nearly 50 percent of all Dreamers are working in essential industries, on the front lines of the pandemic. According to the Center for Migration Studies, more than 43,000 DACA recipients work in the health care and social assistance industries, including 10,300 in hospitals and 2,000 in nursing care facilities. Another 76,000 DACA recipients work in restaurants and other food services.

At KIPP, we see the impact of DACA in our community every day. Blanca Silva, a KIPP alum, is one of many students who just renewed her DACA status over the summer. For Blanca, DACA allows her to pursue her dreams of helping others. Blanca attended KIPP Colorado and was able to get a communications degree from Colorado State University, which provides grants for DACA recipients to assist in paying for college. Today, she works for a communications firm that serves non-profit organizations and organizes events like mobile food pantries to support the community. She also volunteers to help families from low-income communities in Denver apply for financial assistance, so their children can attend high quality preschools. One day she hopes to become a translator at the United Nations. Blanca is one of thousands of DACA recipients whose work and aspirations are vital to our growth and recovery. The United States needs them just as much as they need American citizenship.

The Biden administration recently took action to protect the existing DACA Program from legal challenges. This is a welcome bit of relief for DACA recipients, but it’s far from a permanent fix. KIPP is part of a broad coalition calling for immigration reform, right now.

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