DACA is a lifeline for American children, too

Written by: Tara Manthey
Date Posted: January 12, 2018

Angelica isn’t aware of everything her mother protects her from.

Every day she goes to fourth grade in her Denver school unaware that many of the milestones she looks forward to as an American teenager weren’t an option for her own mother. A driver’s license, graduation, college.

She doesn’t know what it’s like to have a voice in the back of her head warning her to watch her every step, save her money, and work twice as hard as others. She isn’t aware that at any time her mother, an American by language, culture and identity, could lose her job and be sent to live in another country—all because of political gridlock in the United States Congress.

Students and advocates defending DACA in Denver last year. Photo by The Denver PostStudents and advocates defending DACA in Denver last year. Photo by The Denver Post

Her mother, Jasmine, is a “Dreamer” who has followed every rule and regulation of her government. Jasmine’s family moved to Colorado from Mexico when she was a child. Until just a few years ago, she couldn’t go to college, hold a job, or drive a car legally because she didn’t have proper documentation.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program changed her life in every sense. With a DACA work permit, she was finally able to access the education, transportation and employment she needed to provide for her young daughter and support her family.

Jasmine isn’t rare. In fact, one out of every four DACA recipients nationwide is also a parent. These parents of American citizens are relying on the protections of DACA to work, support their families, and contribute to their communities.

DACA has allowed about 17,000 people in Colorado to be stronger and more stable breadwinners and caregivers. After receiving DACA, more than two out of three people reported moving to a job with better pay, with hourly wages increasing by 69 percent, from $10.29 per hour to $17.46 per hour. Over the course of a 40-hour workweek, that adds up to an additional $287 to pay bills, buy groceries, and support a family.

Parents are also healthier and safer because of DACA. Nearly two out of three DACA recipients have access to employer-based health coverage, which they risk losing when their work authorization expires.

But Jasmine could lose something more profound than her employment and health insurance: a future with her daughter. Without DACA, she could be subject to deportation to a country she doesn’t know and be separated from Angelica permanently.

Children whose parents are deported face hardships that lead to reduced school attainment, social exclusion, greater difficulty maintaining relationships, and lower earnings as adults. When parents are no longer afraid of being detained or deported, children can thrive. A study by researchers at Stanford University showed that DACA resulted in more than a 50 percent drop of certain mental health issues such as anxiety disorders among the children of DACA recipients.

Jasmine tries not to think about the prospects of unemployment and deportation so she focuses on each day as it comes. Right now, she is saving as much money as she can and working hard as a teacher’s assistant in her daughter’s school.

This focus on her daily survival also means she’s also hesitant to think too far ahead because it could all be taken away in a heartbeat.

“I have hopes and I have dreams,” she said, “but I want to be wise.”

The Colorado Children’s Campaign joins the thousands of voices calling on Congress to protect our children and pass the Dream Act now. Hundreds of thousands of young Americans and their parents should have the same opportunity to hope and dream as the rest of us.

Note: the names of the mother and daughter in this story have been changed for their protection.

Tara Manthey

About Tara Manthey

Tara McLain Manthey joined Colorado Children's Campaign as Communications Director in May 2012. She previously worked in communications at The Kempe Foundation for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect in Aurora and Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families in Little Rock, Ark. Tara was a newspaper reporter covering education and government for nine years in Oregon, Washington state and Arkansas. A native of the Colorado mountain region and an alumna of the University of Colorado at Boulder, Tara lives in Denver with her husband and two small children.