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The DACA Ruling and California’s Dreamers

Joseph Hayes, Laura Hill June 19, 2020
photo - Female College Student Holding Notebook in Unversity Corridor

On June 16, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration cannot immediately end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that President Obama put in place in 2012. This ruling means that the nation’s nearly 650,000 DACA recipients—young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children before 2007—can continue to work legally, continue their studies, and remain shielded from deportation.

California is home to approximately 183,000 DACA recipients—the total shifts monthly as the two-year status expires and some recipients renew it. About 105,000 recipients are currently employed. An estimated 40,000 are students at a California Community College, California State University, or University of California campus. This is important because having a high school diploma or being enrolled in school is a stipulation of the program. Furthermore, California will need more college graduates in its workforce in the coming years, and DACA recipients who complete a college degree will help to enlarge the state’s pool of highly educated workers.

In fact, in the face of longstanding insecurity about DACA’s future, California has made its own efforts to ensure that these young people are able to take advantage of educational opportunities. A suite of legislation collectively known as California’s Dream Act enables certain eligible undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state tuition and receive financial aid for college, irrespective of the status of the federal DACA program. And a federal judge just ruled in favor of California’s lawsuit against the Trump administration to allow emergency financial aid and grants—part of the pandemic-related CARES Act—to reach undocumented community college students.

The state’s commitment reflects Californians’ views on immigration, and on this population in particular. In January, the PPIC Statewide Survey reported that 85% of respondents favored the protections afforded by DACA, with only 13% opposed. Since the Supreme Court decision in support of DACA still allows for the possibility that the program could be vulnerable to subsequent efforts to end it, California’s continuing support of this population will be key to advancing opportunity and preserving widespread prosperity in the state.

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