Why Are Some Still UnDACAmented?

7448553910_0a2bc46804_zThe latest USCIS DACA numbers from March show that the agency has received roughly 470,000 applications, which means that just under half of those estimated to be eligible have applied. While the success reflected by the 470,000 figure is not to be downplayed, the new numbers beg the question: What about the other half million? Why are they still unDACAmented?

Hard data isn’t available yet, but the organizations working tirelessly to help young people apply for DACA believe that a large percentage of eligible immigrants are living in rural America, which presents them with a range of challenges. Estimates show that roughly one quarter of all DREAMers live in rural communities and that upwards of half of them need to enroll in a qualifying adult education program to become DACA-eligible. If we hone in on the migrant farmworker population — which contains about 55,000 DREAMers – over 80% would need to take steps to meet the education requirement.

Apart from the educational hurdle, there is a substantial financial one.  Migrant farmworkers generally earn a little over $11,000 a year, making the $465 DACA filing fee cost-prohibitive. As if these obstacles weren’t enough, itinerant farmworkers are particularly hard-pressed when it comes to producing evidence of continuous residence since June 15, 2007 (a requirement of the program) and gaining access to legal services.

Anecdotal evidence bolsters these conclusions. Recently, the Florida Dream Coalition, working in conjunction with volunteer law students from the University of Miami and Florida International University, organized several DACA workshops throughout central Florida. During the workshops, immigrants described the obstacles they faced to applying for DACA.  Those living in rural communities provided consistent answers: they didn’t know about the program; they live far away from legal service providers; they fear that the government will try to deport them if they apply; they don’t meet the education requirement; and, above all, the application fee is too high. At the Gainesville DACA clinic, the Harvest of Hope Foundation, a non-profit providing migrant farmworkers with emergency and education services, pledged funds to cover the filing fees of local DACA applicants. Nearly every individual at the clinic that day needed financial assistance.

Lessons from North Carolina lend credence to the theory that there is an urban/rural divide within the applicant pool.  If you compare USCIS figures to estimates produced by the Immigration Policy Center, it turns out that about 40-50% of the eligible DREAMer population has applied for DACA.  Except in North Carolina.  In North Carolina, roughly 16,500 out of an estimated 18,000 — 90% — have applied. What explains the disparity?  Farmworker organizers report that North Carolina’s farmworker outreach network is exceptional. In which case, North Carolina may provide the model for effective DACA implementation throughout the country.

If indeed many of the remaining unDACAmented youth are in rural America, future outreach efforts must be targeted accordingly, placing appropriate emphasis on linking would-be applicants to qualifying adult education programs. It also means that the availability and accessibility of microloans and scholarships for DACA filing fees will play a make-or-break role for tens of thousands of individuals going forward.

Let’s not miss the silver-lining, however. If this hypothesis is correct, then outreach in urban areas has largely been a success. The impassioned, outspoken and social media-savvy DREAMers at organizations like United We Dream and its affiliates deserve immense credit for getting the word out about DACA.  Half a million applications in 8 months is no small feat. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the rural areas and getting those young people DACAmented.

Photo by Neighborhood Centers

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  • Nudema Thompson

    Most of them not understand and they feel that they will be deported. You now need to spend the time going to different states and educating the people on this.

  • Alison Brown

    1) Young people still feel uncertain about what will happen after the 1st 2 years, especially those who have final removal orders entered when they were young children.
    2) Some young people did not finish high school and are having problems identifying an appropriate school that can accept them on time, I have a client on a waiting list now.
    3) Some young people have a misdemeanor and can’t determine if it is “significant”, and even if they get advice that it isn’t they still are scared.
    4) Some people cannot get proof of their residence because they have large periods of time without either school or employment, or only have off-books employment and their employers refuse to provide verification – there is a myth that all these folks have cell phones, social media, and other alternative forms of evidence but I have seen significant gaps without proof for some potential DACA applicants.
    5) Some people are afraid that a DACA application will expose false claims to USC on I-9s or in other settings. This is a very serious problem that may affect some DACA recipients if CIR includes a special path for them, as you can imagine DACA eligible folks with long histories in the US that seem “American” would be more tempted to do this.

  • Steve Scripture

    I’m working in an area with a high concentration of Hispanics. There is an actual fear of the process where by declaring themselves applicants, individuals and their families may no longer be anonymous. Separating themselves from families that are not qualified is a terrible risk. Everyone knows that Hispanic people are focused on the family.
    What guarantees are there that ICE will not come knocking on their door?
    So it involves a reliance on pro bono attorneys for council, and overcoming the stigma of dividing families where some are qualified, while others are not.

  • Pingback: UnDACAmented aliens; over half of all eligible Dreamers have not applied as of March 2013 - Colorado Criminal Defense, The Law Firm of Brian DeBauche

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