DACA? DREAMER? WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

With all the news lately about DACA and the fight to protect Dreamers, you might find yourself about bit confused about what exactly a Dreamer is or what someone means when they say DACA. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

DACA refers to the program enacted through the executive order by President Obama in 2012.  This acronym stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program established specific eligibility criteria and offered work authorization and protection from removal to those whose applications were approved. Individuals with approved applications are DACA recipients. So, when someone is referring to DACA they are talking about the program while DACA recipients are the individuals who qualify, have applied for, and received protection under the program. The DACA program was rescinded by President Trump on September 5, 2017 and since then activists and politicians have been actively trying to find a way to provide some type of legal status to children brought to the United States without permission. DACA recipients are also often to referred to as Dreamers.

The term DREAMers or Dreamers originally referred to individuals who would benefit from a proposed piece of legislation, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The DREAM Act was initially proposed as S. 1291 in 2001 but did not pass. Since then there have been numerous iterations of the DREAM Act proposed to Congress throughout the years, none of which have been successful.   

There are also other bills with the similar goal of providing a path to legal status to children brought to the U.S. without authorization but with different names. For example, the BRIDGE Act, Recognizing America’s Children, the HOPE Act, the SUCCEED Act. Even though there are now a number of proposed bills with a variety of different names, potential beneficiaries of the bills are still often referred to as Dreamers.

Since there are now so many different proposed pieces of legislation with varying eligibility criteria it is no longer quite so clear what exactly is meant to be conveyed about individuals who are called Dreamers. For example, are Dreamers people who have completed high school? Are they actively working or members of military? Are they all under a certain age? Did they enter the U.S. by a specific date? The answers to these questions can’t readily be known just because the term Dreamer is used.

At this point, the term Dreamers has come to refer generally to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors. Along with this basic fact though is also recognition that these young people have grown up in the U.S., understand the culture, are a part of the fabric of American society, and often know no other country but the U.S.  They are Americans without the paperwork to prove it.