Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

June 15 marks the ninth anniversary of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants temporary relief from deportation and the right to work for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. In almost a decade, more than 800,000 young people from dozens of countries have benefited from the program, even as DACA, which doesn’t provide a path to citizenship, has been constantly under threat from legal challenges and political changes. As a result of the turmoil, thousands of recipients and eligible applicants have been in limbo despite having lived and studied most of their lives in the United States. 

In September 2017, the Trump administration moved to rescind DACA and halted all new applications. Several lawsuits followed, and in June 2019 the Supreme Court agreed to review the cases. One year later, the justices ruled 5–4 in favor of Dreamers finding the unlawful termination of the program was “arbitrary and capricious,” while nonetheless, still leaving a door open for the government to end it legally. In the aftermath of the decision, the Trump administration attempted to limit the scope of DACA pending a legal review, but a federal judge in New York invalidated the rules on a technicality by determining that then Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf’s appointment was unlawful at the time. The December order reinstated DACA and allowed for new applications to be considered for the first time in several years. US Citizenship and Immigration Services received around 2,700 initial petitions between mid-November and December 31, 2020. 

“These are young people who were in high school or about to graduate and coming of age right around the time the Trump administration callously decided to try to end the program,” says José Muñoz of United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led community in the United States. He applied for DACA in 2012 at the age of 21. “They’re the same age I was when I applied almost 10 years ago and yet we still don’t have the certainty that DACA will not be taken away.” 

In March, the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for as many as 2.5 million undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers. The bill’s prospect in the Senate looks uncertain, as does the future of DACA. A pending ruling in a federal lawsuit filed by Texas and several other states challenging the legality of the program could strike it down any day now. 

On the anniversary of DACA, Mother Jones spoke to six first-time applicants, some of whom have already been approved and others who are still waiting for their petitions to be processed. They come from four different countries and are scattered across the United States. Some were too young to apply for DACA when it first came around; others were too afraid. Here are their stories in their own words:

Andrea Anaya

“I felt like I was giving up something I had hidden for so long.”

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and billionaire owners wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

payment methods

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and billionaire owners wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate