DACA at Five Years: A Bittersweet Celebration

On Thursday, immigrant families, community leaders and organizers across the country celebrated the fifth birthday of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program.

President Barack Obama signed DACA as an executive order back in 2012. DACA protects more than 800,000 immigrant youth from deportation. The program has helped DREAMers get a social security number and a work permit. It also allows them to have a driver’s license and enroll in college.

“That simple piece of paper called a work permit was my passport to my freedom,” said Jessica Colotl, during a press conference held by United We Dream and ACLU advocates in front of Capitol Hill.

Colotl was 11 years old when she came with her parents to the United States from Mexico. She received DACA in 2013. Last month, Colotl’s DACA was revoked under the Trump administration, but a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction to delay an action on her deportation.

Later in the day, Colotl was part of a Facebook Live DACA event with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The celebration among the immigrant community comes in the midst of the several attempts by the Trump administration to toughen up on immigration enforcement.

Late Thursday night, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John F. Kelly signed a memorandum revoking Obama’s DAPA program that would have protected undocumented parents of U.S citizens or green card holders. The program was never implemented due to a legal battle in the courts.

However, regarding DACA, DHS announced that it will not revoke the program, allowing DREAMers to continue renewing their permits. “The June 15, 2012 memorandum that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will remain in effect,” the statement said.

Despite the promises of the Trump administration to not deport or detain DREAMers, there have already been cases of immigrant youth being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

  • Daniel Ramírez Medina,23, was detained last February in Seattle.
  • Josué Romero, 19, was detained by immigration officials in Texas
  • Francisco J. Rodríguez Dominguez, 25, was detained in Oregon
  • Daniela Vargas was detained by ICE after speaking at an immigrant press conference in Jackson, Mississippi.

“We have to remain vigilant and keep raising our voices. We need to organize and create spaces where people can tell their stories,” said Lorella Praeli Director of immigration policy and campaign for the (ACLU) during the Facebook Live event with Colotl. Praeli is a former undocumented activist.

Throughout the day, advocates, leaders and some elected officials showed their support for DACA on social media:

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María Camila Montañez is a journalism student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s Spanish-language program. She is originally from Colombia and tweets from @mariacmontanez.

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