After Supreme Court win, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy still faces challenges, experts say

Photo of DACA protests at UC Berkeley
Daniel Kim/File
In a virtual discussion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, panelists covered the significance of upcoming elections, Supreme Court decisions and the Black Lives Matter movement in relation to both DACA and undocumented immigrants.

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Panelists discussed the current state of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, policy and some of its limitations in a Thursday virtual event presented by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, or IGS.

The event was moderated by IGS co-director Cristina Mora and featured faculty in related fields from other universities. They covered the significance of upcoming elections, Supreme Court decisions and the Black Lives Matter movement in relation to both DACA and undocumented immigrants.

In 2017, President Donald Trump’s administration announced it would be phasing out the DACA program, which former president Barack Obama’s administration established in 2012. The Supreme Court, however, overturned that decision in June, according to Mora.

“Many dreamers and DACA holders were thus able to breathe a collective sigh of relief, but the legal landscape for them remains still very much uncertain,” Mora said during the event.

UCLA School of Law professor Jennifer Chacón said since the Supreme Court’s ruling, members of the Trump administration have challenged the decision. She added that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it will not be accepting new DACA applicants and will require DACA recipients to renew their status more frequently.

While the panelists acknowledged that the upcoming presidential election could be important in determining the future of DACA, they also encouraged people to pay attention to other tiers of the government.

“It matters who’s president, but it also matters who’s in Congress and whether you can get a bill passed,” Chacón said during the event. “It matters, then, for implementation and protection and policing, who your district attorney is and who your governor is and who the state legislators are and who your city council members are.”

Associate professor at Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School Shannon Gleeson said local governments are important when it comes to enforcing DACA and providing resources because the program does not come with federal funding.

The panelists also pointed out that not all undocumented immigrants are eligible to apply for DACA.

“Part of this puzzle is actually understanding where the gaps are within the undocumented student population,” said Laura Enriquez, assistant professor in Chicano/Latino studies at UC Irvine, during the event. “What’s different between students that have DACA and those that don’t, and how different are they from, you know, our other student populations?”

A survey of students with immigrant parents conducted in the spring through the UC Collaborative to Promote Immigrant and Student Equity found that there were differences between students of legally immigrated parents and undocumented students in terms of GPA and anxiety levels, Enriquez said. There were not always differences in anxiety levels, however, between DACA students and those with no legal status.

Enriquez suggested considering DACA’s limitations as well as ways to support undocumented students both with and without DACA.

“There’s a lot of conversation about DACA, and that leaves out the students, the large group of students that don’t have that,” Enriquez said at the event. “I think moving forward it’s really important to think about the diversity of experiences around DACA.”

Contact Emma Rooholfada at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @erooholfada_dc.