Translation, Please: Immigration Edition

The debate over immigration sometimes features lots of jargon. What is DACA, anyway? Who is a DREAMer? The terms you keep hearing in the news, explained clearly.

  1. DACA: DACA is shorthand for a federal program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, created by President Obama through an executive order in 2012. The program allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country. People who qualify for DACA can obtain temporary lawful status with work authorization. Along with other requirements, undocumented immigrants may qualify for DACA if they:
  • Were under age 31 at the time the program was announced in 2012;
  • Came to the U.S. before age 16 and have lived in the country ever since;
  • Are in school, graduated from high school, obtained a GED, or were honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Those who qualify for DACA can postpone deportation proceedings for two years, and seek a renewal at the end of that time period. About 690,000 people currently participate in DACA.

  1. DREAM Act: The DREAM Act, by contrast, is a federal bill that many members of Congress have been trying to pass for over 16 years (DREAM stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). The DREAM Act, if passed, would also allow undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the country. But unlike DACA, it would not be just a temporary fix. Instead, it would change the immigration law to give lawful, permanent resident status to those immigrants — again, provided they meet certain conditions. The conditions set out for “DREAMers” are somewhat different than those contained in DACA. For example, the DREAM Act covers children who came to the U.S. before age 18 as opposed to age 16.

You can find more information on the requirements of the DREAM Act in this short article by the National Immigration Law Center, and a good comparison of eligibility rules for DACA and the DREAM Act in this article from The Hill.