Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an executive order signed by President Obama in June 2012. DACA is a federal immigration policy that concerns illegal, undocumented immigrants that have that arrived in the United States prior to their 16th birthday, have been in the country since June 2007, and are under the age of 31 years old. Under DACA, eligible individuals are permitted to receive a renewable work permit, lasting two years, and to be exempt from deportation—under the condition that these individuals are lawful and either attending an educational institution, a high school graduate or currently serving or honorably discharged from the military. The policy does not officially allow for these immigrants to become American citizens. However, this policy protects immigrants that did not come to the United States under their own free will as children.Order now
In 2012, there was a large social movement from Latino organizations such as, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Hispanic Federation, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. A growing social movement was also developing among young Latinos, forming the groups like United We Dream. The DREAM movement consisted of protesters advocating for their rights as immigrant students. These students called themselves DREAMers—which, stems from the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). The DREAM Act is a legislative bill that was first introduced in Congress in 2001. However, Congress was never able to pass this bill, despite multiple reforms made over the past decade.
The DREAM Act ‘s main goal was to protect the rights of immigrant students in the United States by allowing conditional residency and eventually permanent residency. It was also established on the argument that these individuals are law-abiding students that did not come to the United States under their own free will. Proponents of the DREAM Act argued that Immigration Enforcement should not focus deportation efforts on young people who are contributing to society either through the means of education or military service.
DREAMers of the Campaign for an American DREAM group participated in various forms of civil protest throughout the United States. In June 2012, DREAM protesters arrived at President Obama’s local campaign headquarters in Denver, Colorado and requested an executive order by the current President to protect illegal, immigrant students—in this instance, some of the protesters initiated a sit-in protest. Other protests that pressed for rights of young Latinos included the Trail of Dreams, a 1,500-mile march from Miami, Florida, to the White House. Anderson (2013) describes a policy problem as, “…a condition or situation that produces needs or dissatisfaction among people and for which relief or redress by governmental action is sought” (p. 82). Thus, problems must be recognized and understood by policy-makers. In the case of DACA, the protests of DREAMers fostered the issue of immigrant rights to the President.
Another aspect of problem identification was the consideration of what populations would be affected by DACA. It is evident that California holds a significant percentage of potential DACA recipients; thus, had already established their form of the legal protection for illegal youths called CAL DREAM Act. California passed this state policy in 2011, previous to the signing of DACA. Under the CAL DREAM Act, minors that arrived in the United States before turning 16 years old were permitted to receive student financial aid. California had addressed the problem of immigration rights before the federal executive order was passed as DACA. Furthermore, the Pew Hispanic Research Center, a branch of Pew Research Center estimated that 1.7 million individuals, as of August 2012, would be potentially eligible nationally to apply for protection under DACA. Additionally, 85% of the 1.7 million DACA beneficiaries are Latino (Pew Research Center, 2012).
DACA can be understood through Kingdon ‘s policy window theory. The policy window of opportunity allows for certain issues to progress onto policy agenda.
Kingdon (1995, p. 152-153): details the convergence of the three streams (problems, proposals, and politics) that produces a policy opportunity:
Advocates of a new policy initiative not only take advantage of politically propitious moments but also claim that their proposal is a solution to a pressing problem. Likewise, entrepreneurs concerned about a particular problem search for solutions in the policy stream to couple to their problems, then try to take advantage of political receptivity at certain points in time to push the package of problem and solution.
The three components must congregate in order to allow policy to be pushed onto political agendas. But, as Kingdon further illustrates, all three aspects exploit each other throughout this policy window, which in the end benefits all three key players.
The first aspect of Kingdon’s policy window theory is the problems. In the case of DACA, the problem of immigrant rights—especially those of young students had been made active to the public and media through social protest. Kingdon explains how policy-makers perceive problems—and one such method is through feedback. The DREAM protests offered a form of feedback to elected officials, specifically President Obama, that illustrated that a large group of individuals were unsatisfied with current conditions.
Moreover, Anderson (2013) demonstrates how government only addresses a problem if there is a solution. Thus, another component of the policy window theory is the proposals. Preceding DACA, there was already proposed policy through the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act had first been adopted in 2001. DACA and the DREAM Act are exceedingly similar in nature—both tackle the rights of undocumented, immigrant youths. There are only minute differences between the two policies. The DREAM Act was ultimately the foundation to DACA—with the DREAM Act as a proposed legislative bill of Congress that failed to pass, thus, eventually led to DACA, an executive order by the President. The DREAM Act was an institutional agenda of Congress, as a legislative bill; however, when it was unsuccessful the policy proposal was then shifted onto another institutional agenda, that of the executive branch with DACA. The policy proposal had already been well established when it reached President Obama. As Kingdon argues proposals are often at the ready but remain dormant until problems are identified and political aspects are addressed.
How solvable is this?? Not really addressing the cause of the issue…
Politics is the final aspect of Kingdon ‘s policy window theory. President Obama signed DACA in June 2012—the summer before the November Presidential election. As incumbent, President Obama, was up for re-election, it could be argued that he decided to sign DACA in order to receive acknowledgement that he supported efforts made by the young Latino protesters and Latino organizations. The Pew Research Center in December 2011, found that 91% of Latinos in the United States supported the DREAM Act. Consequently, President Obama had motives to ensure Latino votes for the upcoming election. The New York Times (2012) writes, “The president was facing growing pressure from Latino leaders and Democrats who warned that because of his harsh immigration enforcement, his support was lagging among Latinos who could be crucial voters in his race for re-election.” Although, an executive order does not guarantee permanency, President Obama called it the “first step” during the announcement of DACA.
During this time, public protests were increasing, but it can be argued that these Latino groups also knew that President Obama would more likely enact a policy during his re-election campaign season. There is strong evidence to illustrate that there were multiple conditions that eventually led to the signing of DACA. Protesters understood this was an opportune time to encourage President Obama during his campaign, as it was comprehended that he wanted the Latino votes. President Obama understood that he needed to formally address this impeding issue if he wanted to secure his executive position. Furthermore, the already established proposals addressing this problem, made the formulation of DACA easier to pass.