University of California Office of the President Michael V. Drake and UC chancellors issued a letter to the Department of Homeland Security on Nov. 22, 2021 affirming their “strong support” for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and making policy recommendations to expand eligibility for the program.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, first created in 2012, provided legal protection to eligible youth who came to the United States as children without documentation and provided forbearance from deportation.
Since July 2021, the DACA program has been effectively suspended following a federal court injunction that prevents the DHS from processing new applications.
In September 2021, the Biden administration announced its intentions to codify the Obama-era policy and preserve protections for undocumented youth. The chancellors’ letter offered comment on the Biden administration’s proposed rulemaking, “Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”
The chancellors’ letter described both the sizable presence that DACA participants have across UC campuses and the value they bring as students, employees and community members.
“For UC in particular, the thousands of DACA participants who have enrolled at UC as students, worked at UC as employees, and represented UC as graduates have brought irreplaceable perspectives and talents to the University,” the letter stated.
Nearly 3,460 DACA participants are enrolled at a UC campus and at least 544 non-student DACA participants are employed by the UC, with another 1,200 in work-study positions on campus, according to the letter.
“These students’ contributions to the UC community and more broadly depend on the continuation of DACA. Not only does DACA protect them from removal from the United States, it also — just as importantly — ensures that these students are able to work before, during, and after their time at UC,” the letter said.
DACA status grants participants with the authorization to work in the U.S., along with other benefits including the ability to obtain a driver’s license, social security number, bank account, state-level financial aid and tuition scholarships and employer-based health insurance.
The letter described these benefits as “critical” for student success, citing UC data that showed the percentage of students continuing their education after their first year to increase significantly for DACA-participant students following the program’s implementation in 2012.
The letter also recommended that the DHS expand DACA eligibility criteria to encompass “deserving individuals” excluded due to “arbitrary” cutoffs established in the proposed ruling.
For example, the existing requirement that participants must continually reside in the U.S. since June 15, 2007 “excludes many individuals brought to the United States as very young children who are now, or soon will be, old enough to graduate high school and attend a UC school,” the letter stated.
“After 2025, virtually all college-age, undocumented individuals in California will have been born after 2007, and will not satisfy this requirement … The June 15, 2012 date does not carry substantive significance or define a category of immigrants more or less deserving of deferred action; it was merely the date when a memorandum was issued,” the letter continued.
Similarly, the UC also advocated for the elimination of the requirement of DACA participants’ “physical presence” in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and the requirement that participants be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2022, stating that the rule “excludes deserving current and future UC students who were brought to the United States as children, and have lived here virtually their entire lives, but who were born on June 15, 1981 or before.”
The UC also urged the DHS to adopt a fee-waiver program to reduce or eliminate the cost of DACA applications, which can amount to $495 including work authorization permits.