To celebrate the 3rd anniversary of DACA, the Mexican Consulate of St. Paul, the Consulate of Ecuador, partner organizations, local DREAMers, and community members reflected on the program’s incredible success
SAINT PAUL, Minn. (June 22, 2015) — At one point when I was growing up, my mother, my siblings, and I were homeless.
“I never thought I would go to college or have a bright future. Then I heard about the DACA program and decided to apply. They accepted me and I was able to get a good job at a bank, help my family move into our first real home, and I’m currently studying pre law at Augsburg College. DACA changed my life,” said Mariah Martinez, a young 19-year old DREAMer who is a part of Navigate MN’s network and spoke at the Mexican Consulate in Saint Paul today.
The Consulate hosted a celebration of the remarkable success that the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has had in just three years. Today is the third anniversary of DACA, which the Obama administration established to provide temporary protection from deportation for unauthorized immigrants who arrived as children. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) offers work authorization in addition to two-year renewable protection from deportation for unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the United States before their 16th birthday and before June 16, 2007.
Over the past three years, over 650,000 immigrant youth across the U.S. and almost 6,000 in Minnesota have received DACA status. They come from diverse backgrounds – among the top countries of origin are Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, South Korea, Colombia, India, Jamaica, Peru, Poland, and Nigeria. Most DACA recipients’ country of origin is Mexico; the Mexican Consulate reports that, “more than 570 thousand Mexicans have applied for DACA. Of these, about 470,000 received some kind of support from the Mexican consulates.” Millions of families and communities have been strengthened because DACA recipients have been empowered to finish high school, go on to higher education, get their first job, or find better employment. The Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota’s program director, Sheila Stuhlman said that, “ILCM conducted a study to see how our DACA client’s lives had changed during their first two years of having DACA. They found that 81% planned to continue their education, 70% got a new job, 50% got health insurance, and fear of being deported dropped by 50%. One of our clients told his attorney, ‘I now have the opportunity to better myself and go to college and accomplish in a career. Now I feel like I belong.’”
Emilia Gonzalez Avalos, the Executive Director of NAVIGATE MN told the press that, “Despite all of this undeniable progress, it is so regrettable that the expanded immigration relief programs announced by President Obama last November, DAPA and expanded DACA have been stalled. These programs as well as Comprehensive Immigration Reform must happen and our coalition is committed to these eventual victories. Let’s celebrate this third anniversary by making the commitment to keep our hope and to keep our voices raised to ensure that all families in Minnesota and across the United States have fair and equal opportunities.” Various organizations attended, like the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and Navigate MN, who have collaborated with the Mexican Consulate during the last three years to ensure that communities throughout the state of Minnesota are educated about and qualify for DACA. Their efforts, along with dozens of other organizations, attorneys, churches, and schools, have helped almost 6,000 young people in Minnesota get approved for DACA. Although Minnesota is among the top 25 states in the U.S. for the most DACA recipients, not everyone who is eligible has applied to the program. As Julio Cesar Martinez Martinez, the Deputy Consul at the Mexican Consulate in Saint Paul noted, “1 in 2 Mexicans who could have DACA, still have not benefited from the program.” All individuals, especially those in rural Minnesota, are encouraged to reach out for assistance and apply for DACA.
Those who have questions about DACA or who think they may be eligible to apply can contact the Mexican Consulate in Saint Paul (651-771-5494); the Consulate of Ecuador in Minneapolis (612-721-6468); Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (651-641-1011) for free assistance.