What Youth Development Professionals Should Know About DACA
SEPTEMBER 28, 2017
BY: MENTOR: THE NATIONAL MENTORING PARTNERSHIP
For those of us working with youth, it’s important to talk about a huge shift that is impacting young people in our country. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), on behalf of President Trump’s administration, announced that it will rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the immigration program also known as DACA. Over the course of the next couple of months, the administration plans to phase out and eventually eliminate DACA, which deferred deportation for undocumented individuals, people who entered the U.S. as children (a community often referred to as “Dreamers”). This is something that affects all of us, at all levels of the non-profit field, but for those working directly with youth it’s important to be informed about the big question on Dreamers’ minds, “What happens now?”
As service providers, mentors, coaches, teachers, and everyone in between, we should know that youth are going to come to us for answers. We may not have all the answers, and that is completely okay! But here are some helpful points to know moving forward:
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DACA
- Under the current plan, DACA and work permits remain valid until their expiration date. This means that current DACA recipients will maintain their protection from deportation and work permit until their current expiration date. NO action can be taken until then.
- At this point in time, no new DACA applicants will be accepted.
- All children have a constitutional right to free public education regardless of their citizenship or residency status. It is illegal for schools to turn away students based on their immigration status, and this announcement about the DACA program does not change that.
Along with this, school should always be and remain a safe space for all students regardless of status. Schools are not allowed to reveal information about a student to immigration officials.
- You can help Dreamers know their rights. The Immigration Legal Resource Center is a great place to prepare for interactions with immigration officials.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE DREAMERS WE WORK WITH
Knowing this information may not provide “Dreamers” with any comfort, in fact it may create more fear and anxiety. But it is going to be helpful for us as professionals to be informed about the issues that they are facing. We can provide youth with support and understanding as well as information and guidance.
Being able to provide mental health resources or other guidance on how to persevere through this stressful time will be critical. As a mentor, or as a service provider, you are part of this child’s support system. This toolkit provides resources to help alleviate stress and anxiety faced by individuals and communities impacted by the rescinding of DACA, including online mental health resources.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US AS PROFESSIONALS
We chose this work for a reason. We want to better the lives of youth. It’s that simple. But what isn’t simple is when we don’t have the answer, or the solution, or the power to change a situation to our benefit or to benefit the people we care about. And that is a hard path to walk.
Not only does the decision to rescind DACA affect the youth we serve but it makes us feel as though there is nothing we can do to help them. But there always is this: continue to care for and support them in any way that you can.
Keep track of updates about DACA in the news so you can be prepared to support the young people you work with, create opportunities to share ideas and provide support to your colleagues, and make time for self-care.