The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program began in 2012 by the Obama administration. The program is aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, often referred to as “Dreamers” from deportation, and provide work authorization. As of September 2020, there were already 640,760 active DACA recipients, and data has shown that the program was not only beneficial to participants but also had a positive effect on the economy.
While the Trump administration pushed to roll back DACA in 2020, by rejecting new applications and reducing the time of protection from deportation to one year, by the end of 2020, the program returned to its initial framework. On the 7th December 2020, by order of the United States District Court, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency reinstated several beneficial policies for Dreamers, including accepting first-time requests for DACA consideration and the two-year protection period. On the 20th of January 2021, during his first day in office, President Biden signed a memorandum directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to take actions aimed at “preserving and fortifying” the DACA program. Now we’re done with a brief history of DACA let’s move on to job searching challenges by DACA recipients.
Job Searching Challenges for DACA Recipients
I always reiterate that before searching for the solution of any challenge we’re faced with, it is necessary to outline exactly what those challenges are.
Although there has been a hopeful turn of events for dreamers, DACA recipients still face several challenges when looking for gainful employment. Just like, the inaccurate interpretations of federal laws have stopped states from providing licensing to educated DACA recipients for specific trades or occupations, invariably making the career paths for DACA beneficiaries unclear. As a DACA recipient, knowing your rights and responsibilities can strengthen your position, always keep up with recent changes to the program, share information with your employer, and know where to look for the best opportunities.
As a recipient of DACA or Temporary Protected Status (TPS), you could get an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), commonly referred to as a work permit, through the USCIS. Your work permits must be renewed every two years. Once the USCIS provides you with an EAD, you would be eligible to obtain a Social Security number, which is also helpful for tax purposes.
Seeking a job can be a rigorous process for anyone. However, DACA recipients, even those with work permits, may face more of an uphill battle due to some businesses’ reluctance to hire Dreamers based on certain misconceptions about them that can lead to discrimination.
Accepting a Job Offer
If your impress your interviewer and have secured and accepted the job offer, it’s paramount to understand that as a DACA recipient, you are not less of an employee than any other employee as you have the same rights as any other employee in the workplace. Because your work permit is valid and you can lawfully work, you are guarded like other workers. Here are some other facts about the hiring process you should be aware of:
- Employers can’t refuse your work permit because of your national origin, the status of your citizenship, or your work permits expiration date.
- It’s only necessary to show “List A” documents, which include an EAD card, to fulfill the Form I-9 requirements.
- Like all new hires, you will need to fill out a Form W-4 so employers can know how much tax to withhold from your pay.
- Although dependent on state legislation, employers may need to use E-Verify, a web-based system furnished by the Department of Homeland Security that allows employers who’re enrolled to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S.
Companies That Share the Dream
While job seekers who’re DACA recipients have faced challenges to entry, a study from the Center for American Progress actually found that nearly three-quarters of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies including Amazon, Apple, Walmart, Wells Fargo, General Motors, and JPMorgan Chase to name a few, employ DACA recipients seamlessly.
“Many employers have expressed an openness to hiring Dreamers and, even better, are openly supportive of Dreamers and their right to legally work in this country,” said TheDream.US’s Candy Marshall. She points out that Apple CEO Tim Cook and senior VP Deirdre O’Brien wrote the following in a pro-DACA amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court: “Apple employs 443 Dreamers who come from more than 25 different countries on four continents. We did not hire them out of kindness or charity. We did it because Dreamers embody Apple’s innovation strategy.” Marshall added that 143 businesses and associations, from Airbnb to Google to Upwork, also signed and submitted a pro-DACA amicus brief in 2019 that called on the Supreme Court to protect Dreamers.
Career and Education Resources
There is no reason to just wing it when it comes to your job search. There are many available resources to DACA recipients who are looking to start or further their careers.
Career Advice and Support
- Eastern Washington University: Countless colleges and universities have career centers with useful information specifically tailored to DACA recipients. The Career Resources for DACA & Undocumented Students at Eastern Washington University is a great example.
- Life After College: A Guide for Undocumented Students: it’s quite an accomplishment to complete your college degree, but what’s next? The guide from the San Francisco-based organization named Immigrants Rising offers graduates many options.
- Undocumented Professionals Network: If you’re in search for career support, networking, mentorship, and empowerment, they’re all available to you in this online community as a DACA recipient.
- Undocumented Professionals on Instagram: Social networking is vital during job searches, and this Instagram hub can be an ideal place to connect with other DACA recipients.
- Upwardly Global: Upwardly Global is an organization that supports immigrants and refugees who want to contribute their professional skills to the U.S. workforce.
- Facebook.com DREAMer Jobs: This Facebook group enables members to post jobs for DACA recipients. You can also post a request for information on jobs in a specific field.
- Dreamers Bar Association: This is a nonprofit that extends membership to undocumented pre-law students, current law students, practitioners, and paralegals.
Because the job market is highly competitive, DACA recipients may need to pursue higher education as a means of becoming more appealing to recruiters.
In at least seven states, undocumented students can receive state financial aid, including California, Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
Additionally, there are graduate fellowships open to DACA recipients:
- The Paul and Daisy Soros New American Fellowship:
- Ford Foundation Fellowship Program:
Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship
A different employment option that is infrequently explored for DACA recipients is self-employment. Try to become an independent contractor, consultant or start your own business.
In conclusion, although they’re companies out there whose misinterpretation of the law has made it somewhat rigorous for DACA recipients, there are steps you could take to further strengthen your position, each of these steps has been highlighted in this article. Follow it and hopefully, you’d land that dream job. Goodluck.