It's been four years since hundreds of thousands of young immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. as children, received a relief from the Obama administration that granted them a work permit and permission to remain in the country without fearing deportation.
On June 15, 2012, President Barack Obama issued Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program for undocumented youth who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 (many were brought to the country by their families when they were just babies and toddlers). With DACA—eligible immigrants who passed a background check, were under 31 years of age and over 15 when the program was issued, were enrolled in school or had a high school degree or GED, and passed other qualifications—young immigrants, or DREAMers, were given temporary relief from deportation and a renewable two-year work permit. The program does not offer a pathway to permanent residency or citizenship.
Most recent numbers from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show the agency has approved 728,285 DACA applications, with the greatest number of recipients in California, Texas and Illinois, according to the American Immigration Council.
Thanks to DACA, hundreds of thousands of fellow young immigrants were able to start working, get licenses and expand educational opportunities. The benefits vary from state to state, and we all know Arizona politicians have not been welcoming to DREAMers. It took years for them to be able to issue driver's licenses and, last year, we all celebrated when the Arizona Board of Regents allowed the state's three public universities to grant DREAMers in-state tuition.
Still, Arizona DREAMers continue to fight to qualify for federal financial aid (thanks to organizations like the Tucson-based Scholarships A-Z, DREAMers get help in applying to scholarships). And, ultimately, they continue to fight for a permanent solution to their status in this country.
In November 2014, Obama expanded DACA. The executive action got rid of the age restrictions to apply and the renewable work permit and deportation relief went from two years to three. Sadly, the program was blocked last year. It is up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide what the fate of DACA II will be.