Killing the Dream. How the DACA Decision Effects Schools and Families around the Country

September 08, 2017
Boy with hands above head in the  orange leaves
Amanda Tipton

In 2012, President Barak Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by executive order. This program has offered protection to 800,000 people in the U.S. illegally, and 42,000 of them are here in Illinois. Known as “dreamers,” these are children that were brought to the U.S. by their parents illegally before the age of 16, which allowed them the ability to work legally and not be deported.

Unfortunately on Sept. 5, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated the phase out of the DACA program. This decision has a great impact on schools and families around the country. Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, said, “This Administration’s decision to terminate DACA was not taken lightly. The Department of Justice has carefully evaluated the program’s Constitutionality and determined it conflicts with our existing immigration laws. As a result of recent litigation, we were faced with two options: wind the program down in an orderly fashion that protects beneficiaries in the near-term while working with Congress to pass legislation; or allow the judiciary to potentially shut the program down completely and immediately. We chose the least disruptive option.”  But what does this mean for our schools and families?

According to a research study done by the Immigration Policy Lab, since 2012, DACA has provided temporary protection from deportation to almost 800,000 immigrants in the United States. About 4 million children born in the United States have at least one parent who is here without proper legal documents. This research found that of the mothers that were DACA eligible, their children had a 50% reduction in adjustment and anxiety disorders. The fear of not knowing if you family is going to be torn apart and separated can be physically and mentally harmful to these children.

Illinois has the largest population in the Midwest of young people who qualify for the DACA program. Overall, Illinois has the third highest number of approved initial applicants for the program, about 42,000 in total, according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Here in Champaign-Urbana, The News-Gazette reported that hundreds of students in high school and college will be affected by this decision. Urbana School District #116 superintendent, Don Owens said, “It's kind of a sad day because it goes against what I believe is one of the tenets of American society, which is that we are a nation built on the ideas and talents of immigrants from around the world. It's a step backward to say, here are young people who have sought an education, sought to be productive, taxpaying members of our society, who are now being threatened with deportation and lack of access."

The News-Gazette also spoke with the Champaign Unit 4 Superintendent, Susan Zola. Zola said that there are various supports in place to help students and their families by answering questions or providing support for social-emotional issues. Zola went on to say, "We still remain hopeful that over the next six months, Congress will evaluate and move forward with legislation that has a positive outcome. We never want to see our students, families or community suffer."

There have also been various reports from across the county highlighting how this DACA decision will be catastrophic. One example is from Denver Public Schools (DPS) Superintendent, Tom Boasberg. He explained, “That DPS was the first school district in the nation to hire teachers under DACA and over 17,000 DACA recipients live in Colorado.”  Boasberg went on to say, “Many of these teachers are outstanding teachers who relate well to students new to the United States.”  He understands that deporting them would be damaging to the school system.

This decision can have an effect on our entire country and can directly affect the educational experience of not only the DACA children, but also other students enrolled in our schools. President John F. Kennedy said it best when he stated, “Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.”  Removing the DACA program and attempting to deport immigrants will be detrimental to America as we know it today.