Since DACA was first implemented on August 15, 2012, the JFON network has helped thousands of young undocumented immigrants become DACAmented, able to pursue their dreams of living happy, hopeful, and productive lives in the only country they've ever truly known.
Some of our orginal DREAMers are quite grown now, of course, but we tend to still think of them as our kids. They are, after all, also the sons and daughters of America. This is their home. They belong here with us; not in the country of their birth, but in the country that raised them and taught them to dream.
“If I could work—even a little—it would help my brother who is supporting me and my little sister.”
In our video, The JFON DREAMers in their own words, we see but a sampling of the young DACAmented clients the JFON network has helped over the last five years. They tell us of their plans to go to college, join the military, and have successful careers. They express their hopes to be of service to their communities, their adopted country, and the world. We hear their longing to belong and to be recognized as Americans.
But another, more prosaic, reason why DACA matters so much to our clients is found in an open-ended question on the I-765 Worksheet submitted to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). Applicants are asked to explain why they need work authorization.
We've collected a lot of these statements from our clients over the years.
NJFON Board Member and Elementary School Teacher Luis Juárez reflects on the 5th Anniversary of DACA
As we commemorate five years of DACA, I sit back to reflect on the opportunities I have received in my DACAmented life. This executive action has catapulted my life to a level that I never thought I could reach. It has given me a privilege not available to many undocumented people and helped me turn my dreams into a reality.
Personally, I am responsible for impacting the lives of hundreds of students at school. My undocumented experience, combined with my professional life, has equipped me with a plethora of resources that I get to share with the families I encounter. My teaching philosophy is sharply defined by these experiences and this has brought me incredible accomplishments in the classroom.
Lastly, thanks to NJFON, I now find myself in leadership spaces where I have a direct impact on communities around the country.
As I continue this journey, I am very conscious that this could not have been possible without DACA. My story is one of many, and it is incredibly important that we continue to be protected and supported. If there is anything we have proven, it is that we are willing to do the impossible to make a name for ourselves and give back to a country that has taken a chance on us.
West Michigan JFON helps young accident victim become DACAmented
Julio was brought to the United States in 2005, when he was only 13 years old. Unfortunately, he did not find a welcoming land of opportunity here, but was instead terrorized and exploited by an abusive uncle. Julio was not allowed to go to school. Even at that tender age, he was forced to work to pay off family debts to his uncle.
When Julio turned 16, he was finally able to move out of his uncle's house and live with his brother. He was also able to start school. But Julio lacked evidence of his physical presence in the U.S. before he started school in 2008— evidence necessary for a successful DACA (Defered Action for Childhood Arrivals) application.
Julio first came to JFON West Michigan in 2014, after he had suffered a workplace accident that caused him paraplegia. He had to sue his employer to receive the worker's compensation he was due to help pay for his expensive medical bills. He could not, however, collect any money without a social security number, and for that he needed to prove his DACA eligibility.
Julio and his legal team at JFON West Michigan waited anxiously for well over a year, trudging through a challenging RFE (Request for Evidence) process before he finally got his DACA application approved.
"When he came to pick up his work permit," remembers site attorney Alex Gillette, "he and his friend brought us two dozen doughnuts. Julio had proudly paid for them himself as a thank you to our staff."
"Since we first met Julio," continues Alex, "he has grown so much; his memory has substantially improved and his confidence has grown exponentially."
Alex smiles happily. "We are thrilled he received DACA," she says. "That program changed his life."
Defending the DREAMers
A Call to Action to protect DACA
by Melissa Bowe, NJFON Program and Advocacy Manager
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a lifeline for nearly 800,000 young immigrants, or “DREAMers,” who came to the United States as children.
DACA allows them to live and work in the country on a renewable, two-year basis and has enabled thousands of young people to attend school, support their families, begin careers, contribute to their communities, and most importantly, pursue their dreams.
Our JFON network has handled over 2,000 DACA cases since the program began in 2012, and most of us involved in JFON have DREAMers as family members, clients, neighbors and as friends.
The Justice for Our Neighbors network knows that we need a solution for DREAMers which keeps families together and allows our young neighbors to make a permanent home in the United States, enabling them to fully integrate into our communities. This is why we strongly support the DREAM Act of 2017.
This Act would provide an enduring welcome for undocumented immigrant youth and young adults who know only America as their true home. It is aligned with our faith and our dedication to justice and freedom for all people in this country.
Until we pass this kind of legislation, however, we must fight to keep DACA intact.
Five years ago, the federal government made an offer in good faith with immigrant youth in this country: if they passed a criminal background check and met other conditions, they would get permission to live, study, and work here for renewable two-year periods and plan for a future in their home. Now is the time to voice our unwavering support for DACA and demand that we fulfill its promise.