The DACA program is a Millennial program—it only applies to those born in 1981 or later—and it may soon come to an end. Rumors are swirling that Donald Trump is considering ending DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in advance of a lawsuit threatened by 10 conservative state attorneys general if he does not do so. The program currently allows at nearly 800,000 young people to be able to work and get a driver’s license—key elements of allowing them a fair shot at economic stability—without fear of deportation. The Trump Administration’s attack on DACA is literally an attack on our generation, the largest and most diverse in American history.
For many young people, like Britney, DACA is a lifeline.
Britney—who Generation Progress will refer to only by her first name to protect her privacy— didn’t know she was undocumented until she was in middle school. Her family was driving to Target when her uncle was pulled over, asked for his license and registration, and then handcuffed and taken to jail when authorities discovered he was undocumented. When Generation Progress talked to Britney last fall, she was 17, a senior in high school, and working at Subway while submitting applications to the colleges that might accept her and give her financial aid despite her citizenship status.
“I decided to apply for DACA because I wanted to work,” she tells me. “That’s one of the things DACA gives you.”
When Britney’s mom first came to the United States, she worked three jobs: one at a factory, one at Subway, and another at a Mexican grocery store. Eventually, she worked her way up at Subway and eventually wound up managing eight Subway restaurants. For Britney, working at Subway was a family affair: all her aunts and uncles worked at Subway as well.
Britney could only join the family business, so to speak, after receiving DACA, which, Britney tells me, gave her a social security number to use for work and allowed her to apply for a temporary license she could use to get to and from work. “That was really why” Britney says, of why she decided to apply for DACA. “It was a lack of money and stuff like that.”
DACA helped Britney’s financial situation, but she says her family is still living paycheck to paycheck. “It’s hard,” she says.
DACA is a program that is meant to give young people like Britney the opportunity to work and put their aspirations within reach. Eliminating DACA would cruelly penalize young people like Britney who embody an inspiring grit and determination that our country needs.
Even with DACA currently in place, there are young people being left behind who have so much to contribute to our country, young people like Angel, who is 19, undocumented, ineligible for DACA, and working multiple jobs to save up so his younger brother can go to college, and so maybe one day he can too. Angel—who Generation Progress will again refer to only by his first name to protect his privacy—works twelve hours a day, spread out throughout the day and over three different jobs, all janitorial. He often starts at 7:30 in the morning and doesn’t finish until after 10:00 at night. “I’m working hard so he can go to college,” Angel says of his brother. After the election of Donald Trump, Angel’s future is uncertain. Of the election, he said: “I think the country just took a massive U-turn. Kind of like when you’re on the GPS and you’ve missed your turn and you don’t know where you’re going.”
Donald Trump’s cruel attempt to eliminate DACA is an attack on some of the best and brightest in our generation. DACA must remain in place so young people like Britney can continue to strive, and Congress must act to protect all DREAMers, including those who are still left behind by DACA. We know what we must do. But Donald Trump’s administration is determined to take the United States in the wrong direction, eliminating programs that allow young immigrants a shot at economic stability and offer our country a chance to benefit from the innovation and determination of young people like Britney and Angel. As the largest and most diverse generation in American history, we cannot let this stand. To take action to #DefendDACA click here.