DACA Recipients, Immigrant Advocates and Elected Officials Rally to Celebrate DACA’s 10th Anniversary, Call for a Pathway to Citizenship

New York, NY – Today, members of the New York Immigration Coalition, DACA recipients, and elected officials gathered at Castle Clinton at Battery Park in lower Manhattan, America’s first immigration station, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Established by the Obama Administration in 2012, this extraordinarily successful policy has transformed the lives of over 600,000 young “Dreamers” by making them eligible to apply for driver's licenses, social security, and work permits.

In recognition of DACA’s anniversary, FWD.us released a new report that provides a state-by-state analysis of DACA’s impact. Their report found that New York is home to 38,000 DACA recipients. Of these, 81% are currently in the labor force, 92% have a high school diploma, 51% have some college education, 20% are married, and 20% have children. There are more than 26,000 U.S. citizens in New York living with DACA recipients.

Despite the contributions of DACA recipients to our nation’s economy, communities and culture, DACA recipients have no path to citizenship or legal permanent residence. DACA has been in limbo since a Texas federal judge ruled it unlawful last July. That ruling has blocked 80,000 first-time DACA applications from being processed. In less than one month, oral arguments will begin in legal proceedings before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that will decide the fate of DACA.

With the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, participants in today’s rally demanded Congressional action on the preservation of DACA and a pathway to citizenship. DACA recipients shared their own immigration stories and the opportunities that DACA has enabled them to pursue. Still, they lamented the many obstacles they face due to their limited legal status. Livestream can be found here and photos and videos of the event can be found here.

“It’s unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients remain at the mercy of the courts without any pathway to permanency,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director of New York Immigration Coalition. “There are 38,000 New York DACA recipients who are our friends, family, colleagues and neighbors and a vital part of our communities. America is the only home that many of them have ever really known, yet they unfairly remain in a state of uncertainty threatening their stability, their families and their futures. It’s on Congress to finally deliver a pathway to citizenship and legal permanent status, because we can’t wait any longer.”

“As we mark the 10th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program we must remain committed to fully supporting undocumented individuals who were brought to the United States at a young age by their parents by maintaining this viable, humane pathway to citizenship in this country,” said Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke. “DACA is a lifeline for Dreamers until Congress finds a permanent solution to our broken immigration system that covers more individuals, new immigrants, and asylum seekers. And so, as we mark this momentous anniversary it must be with continued resolve to clear a path to a permanent immigration status for DACA recipients. It’s the right thing to do and in line with our values. Immigration is a human right and a firmly established principle that no human is ‘illegal’ or unworthy of protection under the law.”

"On this 10th anniversary of DACA, we reflect on the resiliency of not just the program but its participants who have been faced with uncertainty since its inception,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “Last year, the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act, which would protect dreamers from deportation and once and for all provide a pathway to citizenship. I urge the Senate to end the filibuster and pass their version of the Dream Act. I vow to continue my efforts to ensure dreamers are welcomed and protected – and that we uphold our American values to ensure opportunities for all."

“The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has changed the lives of so many and has given DACA recipients the opportunity to contribute to and enrich their country each and every day,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. “On the tenth anniversary of DACA, I am reminded of the work that still needs to be done to reform and strengthen our immigration system. As one of the authors of the Dream and Promise Act, I will always stand with DACA recipients and their families because home is here.”

"As a formerly undocumented New Yorker and DREAMer, I know all too well the constant everyday stress that immigration status holds over families and communities," said Assemblymember Catalina Cruz. "DACA has given invaluable freedom and opportunities to immigrants across New York and the country. But DACA was only ever meant to be a temporary solution, and it is not enough for the millions of people who call our country home. With a new generation of children hanging in limbo because the chance at DACA has been stolen from them, a pathway to citizenship has never been more urgent. Not until there are permanent protections will our communities be truly able to thrive and grow as Americans."

“Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This historic executive action has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people, allowing them to live their childhoods uninterrupted by the trauma of deportation,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif. “The legal limbo this policy has hung in has created anxiety and confusion for almost a million young people who are simply trying to live their lives. On this anniversary, we must recommit to Dreamers with real comprehensive immigration reform to provide a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants.”

“I’m proud to be the first DREAMer appointed Commissioner for the City of New York & to continue fighting for my community,” said Manuel Castro, Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “On DACA’s 10-years anniversary, I joined NYIC and other community groups to call on congress to pass a permanent solution and pathway to citizenship for all DREAMers & their families.”

“I know I am one of many today who wouldn’t be here without DACA, but I’m also one of many who has faced fears of my family being torn apart by cruel and unforgiving immigration policies,” said Jessica Astudillo, Physician at NYU Langone Health Pediatric. “Standing here today reminds me why I do what I do. As a physician, I try to find solutions to health disparities that disproportionately affect Latino immigrant families and use my off-hours to be more active and involved in my community through immigration advocacy. All of this is to ensure that those who follow me will have a better future, and I am proud to stand alongside Dreamers and advocates who are fighting for the same thing.”

“My family, like so many others, saw the U.S. as a safe haven, a place although far from home would give us the opportunity to start fresh and rebuild our lives,” said Admir Molla, Community Organizer and Activist. “I am proud to be here today and call myself a New Yorker, but I wouldn’t be a New Yorker if I didn’t call out the injustice that has brought us together. DACA has given me a pathway to pursue my dreams as an attorney and allowed me to stay in this country that I have called my home for 25 years. The recent block on DACA has put so many people my age and younger at risk, and our efforts won’t stop until DACA is reinstated.”

“Too many of my fellow DACA recipients have been stuck in a state of limbo their entire lives. DACA was supposed to provide stability and pathway forward, now our lives are one court order away from being upended,” said Hina Naveed, Registered Nurse. “To see everyone here, fighting for the same thing, reminds me that our work is never done, and it’s organizations like La Colmena that keep this coalition going. We will keep putting pressure on those in power, and we will not stop until DACA becomes the law of the land.”

“Even though DACA has its limits, it has made me the person I am today,” said Woojung (Diana) Park, Immigrant Justice Organizer at MinKwon Center for Community Action. “DACA has enabled me to pursue higher education and obtain health insurance. Still, DACA recipients are left in legal limbo and we have no pathway to permanent residence. Over the last 10 years, we’ve demonstrated that we are entrepreneurs, creatives, activists and so much more. We deserve a path to citizenship and the right to be here legally free from the fear of deportation.”

“Often, the struggles of undocumented people are ignored and dismissed. DACA has been an invaluable resource that allowed me to earn scholarships for college tuition,” said Angel Salazar, Worker’s Associate at La Colmena. “Still, undocumented people need so much more support. We contribute to every facet of our economy and yet have little to no political representation. We deserve a voice in the decisions and policies that affect our lives.”