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As DACA celebrates its 9th anniversary, still an uncertain future for thousands of 'Dreamers'

A federal judge in Texas may hold the fate of the program that has allowed thousands to stay in the U.S. despite coming here illegally when they were kids.

AUSTIN, Texas — Nine years ago this week, former President Barack Obama issued an executive order creating DACA – short for Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals. It has allowed many undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children to avoid deportation if they meet certain qualifications.

DACA recipients receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for work permits. 

To qualify for the program, recipients cannot have felonies or serious misdemeanors on their records. They must be under the age of 31 as of 2012, and they have to have been brought here when they were younger than 16. They also have to be in school or have at least a high school education or G.E.D., or served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Around 825,000 people known as “Dreamers” – named for the so-called “Dream Act,” which if approved by lawmakers would offer a possible path to citizenship – have used the program, including nearly 27,000 now working in health care, many on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight.

According to the "Center for American Progress," Dreamers paid more than $4 billion in federal taxes in 2019. Their families include 257,000 U.S. citizen-children who were born here. 

But there still is no path to citizenship for the Dreamers despite bipartisan support for legislation to change that, and the program is at risk. A federal judge who recently heard the DACA case in Texas may rule that the program is illegal, something that supporters say would have a devastating impact on the economy and the Texas workforce.

“If we continue to target programs like DACA, if we continue to fail to provide stability for the immigrant community, Texas businesses hurt, our workforce hurts, our communities hurt,” said Zaira Garcia, Texas director of Forward U.S. “We're talking about teachers who educate our children in classrooms, nurses who are taking care of COVID-19 patients. We're talking about real people who have contributed and given so much and are so critical to our communities.” 

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