Can DACA Recipients Vote?

Posted by Frank Gogol

DACA recipients are granted many constitutional rights on par with American citizens. They enjoy many of the same benefits a regular American does, but certainly not all.

DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was introduced in 2012 to allow certain immigrants to lawfully live and work in the U.S. Until 2018. It has benefited close to 700,000 people.

One of the many questions related to DACA is whether or not DACA recipients can cast their votes in federal elections. In this article, we’ll answer this critical question in detail.

Can DACA Recipients Vote?

People granted DACA status do not have the same rights as U.S. citizens when it comes to taking part in elections. They are considered permanent residents living in the U.S. with a green card; hence they are non-U.S. citizens. They also have the ability to obtain scholarships to pay for an education in the U.S.

Barring only a few states, DACA recipients and immigrants holding other statuses are not allowed to cast their votes in federal elections. Some states and municipalities that allow DACA recipients to vote include Chicago and San Francisco, among others. If they’re undocumented immigrants, then voting is entirely prohibited.

What are the Big Concerns Facing Dreamers This Election?

Elections are always important to a country, and most importantly, to its people. These people are both citizens and non-citizens, each with their own hopes and concerns for the election. DACA recipients look forward to the upcoming 2020 election with anticipation.

The DACA policy first came into effect in 2012, and within the last eight years, it has undergone a roller coaster ride of policy shifts. 2020 is going to be no different, and there are some big concerns looming for DACA status holders. Among all the major concerns, the most important ones for these non-citizens are:

Loss of Driver’s License and State ID Rights

One of the benefits of DACA status is that you can have a driver’s license. This is true for all 50 states along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. As per a nationwide study, it was found that nearly 78% of DACA recipients get their first driving license, and 62% get access to their first state ID card.

In the U.S., a driver’s license is among the most important widely recognized government-issued documents. For DACA status holders, it was life-changing as well. But all of this is at risk. If the DACA act gets revoked, the license that comes with it will be subsequently revoked and deemed invalid. Currently, only 12 states grant a driver’s license irrespective of whether or not you are a DACA recipient.

Less Access to Higher Education

A good education is important for anyone wishing to prosper in life. DACA enabled many non-citizens to enroll themselves in colleges, which was not possible before. According to a CAP survey, as many as 40% of the respondents said they enrolled themselves in a secondary or postsecondary course, while 74% said they enrolled themselves in a bachelor’s degree and higher studies after getting DACA status.

This is significant considering the rising dropout rates among U.S. colleges. Revoking the DACA act will severely impact higher education for the recipients. Since the tuition equity policies are highly varied among U.S. states, the effect will be visible even in colleges located within the same state. Students will lose access to federal loans and have to incur additional costs to pay off their college fees.

Trump Could End the DACA Program

Lastly, the DACA program could come to an end if the Trump administration comes into power again in 2020. The administration has already rescinded the expansion of DACA to cover more immigrants, which was originally proposed by the Obama administration. And it was announced in September 2017 that the entire DACA program is going to be scrapped.

District Judge Andrew Hanen, in August of 2018, ruled DACA unconstitutional, and litigation is ongoing to end the program. If DACA gets scrapped in the near future, then it’s most likely that the recipients will lose their status and face deportation unless they change their status. This is by far the biggest fear among DACA recipients.

How Can Dreamers Get Their Voices Heard at the Polls?

Even though they cannot cast their vote in the elections, all is not lost for DACA recipients. Nearly 700,000 people are living in the U.S. with DACA status. So changing or abandoning a policy on which so many people rely is not an easy undertaking.

Some of the DACA recipients are taking things into their own hands and trying their best to keep DACA intact. While this may not be directly effective, it is certainly a way for them to try to make an impact this election season.

Register Like-Minded Others to Vote

If you cannot vote, then you have to rely on those who can. DACA status holders know this and are therefore turning to people who will be voting in the upcoming elections. Amidst the uncertainty of the future of DACA, there are American citizens who want the policy to remain in effect. After all, it was created for the betterment of society as a whole.

The future of DACA largely depends on who will be serving as president in the next term. So, the more people who vote for the candidate supporting the policy, the more likely it is to remain in effect. Therefore, as a DACA recipient, you should get more like-minded people to vote in your favor.

Help Raise Awareness

Besides persuading like-minded people to vote in your favor, you can also raise awareness about the importance of DACA and the benefits it provides to its beneficiaries. Many American citizens aren’t aware or concerned about it since DACA doesn’t directly affect them.

By raising awareness, through both online and offline methods, you can educate them and let them know about the consequences if it gets revoked. The best way to do this is to join political gatherings and rallies. The Internet is a great medium too, and you can spread awareness on various political-centric and social media websites.

Hold Your Own Hearings

You can share personal stories that reflect the importance of DACA and how it has helped you. People will be more receptive to such messages than blunt political ads. In fact, many teenagers and adults who benefited from DACA are sharing their own stories of how it changed their lives. And these stories are circulating on the Internet, inspiring millions.

Next Steps

DACA has certainly relieved many young people from the fear of being deported at any given moment.  Furthermore, this has opened the doors for opportunity, provided employment, and granted a sense of belonging in the U.S. The effectiveness of DACA can be seen in the way it has helped many child immigrants improve their mental health status. But all of that might change in the upcoming election. As a DACA recipient, you can do your part by campaigning and getting your voice heard.

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