Difference Between DACA and Dreamers

Posted by | Updated on August 24, 2022

DACA is a program created back in 2012 under former president Barack Obama. The federal government program has been a blessing for many people who’ve come illegally to the United States and allowed them to live in the country legally for a temporary period. These illegal immigrants would also obtain the chance to work and study in the U.S. On top of that, they could even get a driving license if they wanted to.

Moreover, they would not have to live in fear of being deported anymore. People who were protected under the program would have the deportation action deferred for two years. They had the chance to renew it as well. But while this gave them the chance to live in the United States legally, it would not allow them to become residents or citizens.

DACA is short for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”. But while it has been a great help for those who didn’t have legal status in the U.S., the program suffered a lot as time passed by. Even though it worked properly under the Obama administration, things changed when the Trump administration took over.

The new administration tried to put an end to the program many times. But despite this, the Supreme Court decided last June that DACA should still be active for now. So, this is a victory for illegal immigrants so far, but what happens in the future is still unknown.


In order to be eligible for DACA, undocumented immigrants had to meet certain requirements. Some eligibility criteria would determine whether someone would get DACA protection or not. So, to qualify for the program, an illegal immigrant must:

  • Have been younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012
  • Have been in school currently, obtained a certificate of high school completion or graduated, obtained a certificate for general education development, or have been an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Have come to the U.S. before turning 16 years of age
  • Have been present in the U.S. physically on June 15, 2012, as well as when requesting DACA
  • Have had no lawful status on June 15, 2012
  • Have not been found to have committed any misdemeanor, felony, or three or more different other misdemeanors, and must have not been a threat to public safety or national security

Who Are the Dreamers?

The Dreamers are also undocumented people, but they are the undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before they turned 16. They are also protected under the DACA program benefits. So, they are not at risk of deportation.

The “dreamer” word was born back in 2001 when the DREAM Act was also created. DREAM is short for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. This allowed undocumented immigrants to stay in the country legally as long as they went to college or joined the military. The name remained the same, despite the program being rejected by the Senate back in December 2010.

In order to be considered a Dreamer, an immigrant must have arrived in the U.S. before 2007 and must have been younger than 31 back in 2012 when DACA was created. The immigrant must have also gone to high school or joined the military. Besides, the immigrant must have not had any sort of criminal history.

There were more than 700,000 dreamers, and the majority of them were from multiple countries such as El Salvador, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. At the moment, they are all still protected by DACA and they can enjoy several benefits like a work authorization, driving license, and education among others.


In order to qualify as a dreamer, an undocumented immigrant must meet certain requirements. An illegal immigrant can get lawful permanent resident status on a conditional basis under the Dream Act of 2017 if he/she:

  • Was younger than 18 years old when first entering the U.S.
  • Has been present physically in the U.S. continuously for four years preceding the enactment of the bill
  • Has not taken part in any persecution
  • Has not been involved in any terrorist or criminal acts, and is thus not inadmissible on particular terrorism, criminal, security grounds, or other grounds
  • Has fulfilled particular educational requirements
  • Has not done any state or federal offenses

What’s Been Happening to the Dreamers

When the Trump administration became in control, things were about to change. This is because Trump made a promise during his 2016 election. He said he was going to get rid of DACA immediately, and that he was going to deport the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants from the U.S.

Then, in September 2017, the government mentioned getting rid of DACA. But they gave Congress the chance to come up with a legislative solution within 6 months. The Congress was not successful in doing so. Trump was then able to reverse Obama’s policy since it was only an executive policy decision.

Then, after the announcement about this was made in 2017, the program was phased out. Some people who were not protected under the program had several days to apply for it, and there was also a deadline for individuals who wanted to renew their protections. Support was offered by a few states and colleges. If someone didn’t apply for the renewal, they were at risk of deportation, not to mention that it was much easier for the authorities to find them.

Future of DACA Under Biden

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden had a meeting with six immigrants who were protected by the policy created by Obama, as they were illegally brought to the U.S. as children. Apparently, the president has told the group that he truly wants immigration reform. He also supports the legislation that has passed the Democratic-controlled House and that will put the DACA program back in law. Moreover, he mentioned supporting a separate bill that would then allow immigrant farmworkers to obtain better working conditions and lawful status.

But it is still uncertain what is going to happen to DACA. Despite the Biden administration showing support for the program, there are still certain individuals who don’t agree with DACA. For instance, nine states filed a lawsuit back in 2018, saying that the program is a Constitution violation. They also said that the president doesn’t have the power to create such a program. So, this will be a legal battle that makes everything surrounding the program uncertain.

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The Bottom Line

DACA and Dreamers are two different things, and it’s important to understand the difference between them. Although the Trump administration wanted to end the DACA program, the Biden administration is supportive of it, but it’s hard to know what will happen to it at the moment.

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