Realizing the DACA and DREAM Promise: Actions to Support Educational Attainment of Potentially Eligible Immigrant Youth
Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner, New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs
Katharine Gin, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Educators for Fair Consideration
Margie McHugh, Director of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy
Jose Ivan Arreola, Training & Community Relations Manager, Educators for Fair Consideration
Michael Fix, President, MPI
As of July, only 37 percent of potential applicants who are now age 15 or older had applied for protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As DACA enters its third year, educators, community leaders, and others are seeking to understand how to extend its reach to the estimated 2.1 million young unauthorized immigrants who could eventually benefit from the program. While there are a variety of factors likely influencing the decision of those who have not applied, DACA is unprecedented in requiring applicants who lack a high school diploma or equivalent and are not currently in school to enroll in an adult education or training program in order to qualify for protection; roughly 20 percent were in this category when the program launched. Of even greater significance, only a very small percentage of potential DACA applicants appear on track to meet the tougher postsecondary educational attainment requirements of prior DREAM Act proposals, which would provide a pathway to legal permanent status for these young adults.
With postsecondary degrees proving to be beyond the reach of many low-income immigrant youth, and a vastly under-resourced adult education system the weakest link in the U.S. educational pipeline, a lack of educational attainment and opportunities stands to block hundreds of thousands of DACA-DREAM youth from obtaining immigration protections for which they would otherwise qualify. This discussion focuses on, Diploma, Please: Promoting Educational Attainment for DACA- and Potential DREAM Act-Eligible Youth, a report from MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy that examines these issues, targeted programs designed to address them, and recommendations for overcoming the education-success challenges that key subgroups of DACA-DREAM youth face. The report highlights some of the promising programs, emerging models, and policy contexts in states such as California, Texas, New York, Illinois, Georgia, and Washington State.