The Obama Administration: DACA & Deportations Part 2

The Obama administration has a complicated mix of beneficial and harmful impacts on undocumented immigrants.

The Obama Administration: DACA & Deportations Part 2
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit

A Complicated Administration

(Dec. 16, 2021) - The Obama administration has a  complicated mix of beneficial and harmful impacts on undocumented immigrants. When Obama was elected, the immigrant community had great hopes for real progress. We hoped he would champion the Dream Act which would give a path to citizenship to undocumented youth who were brought here as children, also known as the Dreamers. However, to immigrants and advocates, Obama is known for two things: deportations and DACA. In this second part of our view of the Obama administration, we will focus on the beneficial impact of DACA.

The Most Beneficial Immigration Reform in 35 years

The consensus among immigrants, Dreamers, and immigration advocates is that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has been the most beneficial immigration policy in recent history. With DACA, Dreamers are granted some rights such as a social security number, the right to pursue higher education, and the ability to obtain a driver’s license. One of the most beneficial impacts DACA recipients get is access to work beyond low-paying under-the-table jobs with no benefits and often with low pay.

DACA is the watered-down Dream Act as it does not provide a path to citizenship for dreamers but states that those with DACA status are not a priority for deportation. This ‘DACA-mented’ status puts Dreamers in a unique in-between situation in which they are afforded a handful of rights, but without a path to citizenship have no guarantees for their status in the future. Nonetheless, today there are about 800,000 people who benefit from this policy.

Ilsia Muñiz, DOJ Accredited Representative, explains that “although this plan fell short of what undocumented youth needed, it at least gave them protection from deportation and ability to work and/or go to school.”

The Role of Dreamers

Attorneys and advocates give credit for the passing of DACA to the Dreamers. Ilsia explains that “youth today are aware that this was not all the President’s doing. Undocumented youth and allies demanded protections and pressured Obama to deliver on one of his promises. Without the sacrifice, labor and organizing of immigrant youth, we would not have DACA.” – Ilsia

Marty Rosenbluth, a deportation defense attorney, shares the same sentiment. “As we know, what happened is the Dreamers got sick and fed up of the lies, because it was their relatives, their brothers and sisters, their aunts and other people in the community who were being deported. These kids occupied the offices of Democratic Party congressmen and senators and said you need to fix this. And it was really clear at that point the Democratic Party that they were going to start losing elections if they didn’t change. It was tremendous grass roots pressure, they knew that the immigrant community as a whole would stop voting for them and that’s what got us DACA.”

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