Around 100,000 ‘Dreamers’ to graduate without shot at work permits
Around 100,000 undocumented immigrants will graduate high school in 2022 without a shot at work permits, the first time in a decade that a majority of so-called Dreamers will not be eligible.
Most undocumented 2022 graduates have not been in the country long enough to be covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama-era policy that was the focus of attacks and litigation during the Trump administration. Immigrants covered by DACA are known as Dreamers.
DACA was put in place as a temporary stopgap in 2012, giving the right to work and study, and deferral from potential deportation, to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as minors before 2007.
According to a new report by FWD.us, a tech industry-linked immigration advocacy group, U.S. high schools this spring will grant diplomas to 100,000 young undocumented immigrants.
Only a quarter of 2022 undocumented graduates would be eligible for DACA, making it the first graduating class since the policy’s been in place to have a majority of post-DACA undocumented graduates.
But the federal government is only allowed to process DACA renewals because of a court ruling, meaning even Dreamers who arrived before 2007 and are technically eligible for DACA cannot sign onto the program.
As the DACA eligibility date fades into the past, upcoming high school classes will have a higher number of post-DACA graduates; more than 600,000 undocumented students are currently enrolled in K-12 schools in the United States, according to FWD.us data.
Of those 600,000, only about 21,000 are already enrolled in the program and potentially eligible for renewals, according to government data.
The post-DACA Dreamers face different challenges depending on their state of residence.
According to the study, around 43,000 Dreamers in the class of 2022 live in the 28 states that don’t provide in-state tuition for undocumented students, meaning they’ll be barred from working legally and will have to pay full tuition to attend state schools.
“I am a part of the generation of Dreamers that have been left out of the DACA program because I arrived in the U.S after 2007. Graduating from high school as an undocumented student was extremely daunting and heartbreaking,” said Karen Nuñez Sifuentes, program and engagement coordinator at ConVivir Colorado, a leadership program for immigrant students.
“I was accepted to the school of my dreams but was unable to attend because I did not qualify for financial aid due to my status,” added Nuñez.
While Nuñez did graduate college at MCU Denver, she was unable to continue a career in science because she could not work at federally funded labs.
Nuñez’s experience is typical of Dreamers who lack DACA protections.
Barred from working or for the most part from adjusting their immigrant status, non-DACA Dreamers must seek out work in places that don’t require work authorization or find ways to pay tuition in the hope that DACA protections will be extended in the future.
But DACA is buried under a pile of legal action stemming from the Trump administration’s efforts to end the policy, and legislation on the matter is unlikely, at least in the short term.
The federal government is currently prohibited by a court ruling from extending DACA to new beneficiaries, and the entire program could be struck down by the courts.
Still, amid record low unemployment and a continued sense of public sympathy for Dreamers, advocates are pushing Congress to tackle the low hanging fruit in immigration, including DACA and backlogs for certain work visa holders and their families.
Last month, a bipartisan group led by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) started immigration reform talks to gauge a path forward for a series of targeted House-passed immigration reform bills.
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