State Policies Should Protect DACA Recipients – Next100
Commentary   Immigration

State Policies Should Protect DACA Recipients

States should adopt policies that protect DACA recipients and their families, regardless of the Supreme Court decision.


In the middle of a global pandemic, the almost 700,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients shouldn’t have to worry about losing their protections from deportations, their work authorization, their jobs, or their health care. Our communities shouldn’t have to lose the medical care, the education in virtual classrooms, and the many other contributions that they are providing. If the Supreme Court ends DACA, the lives of DACA recipients would be upended and our communities would be further interrupted. State governments have both the ability and a responsibility to protect immigrant youth and their families from the harmful actions of the Trump administration. Below are some policies that states throughout the United States have the power to implement to protect immigrants in their communities, regardless of immigration status and regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision. This is a time to come together across the differences used to divide us. Anyone who seeks to use this health crisis to divide us, or to scapegoat immigrants or those struggling to make ends meet, endangers us all. State lawmakers can and should take an active role in ensuring that DACA recipients and their families are protected in the event of a negative decision from the Supreme Court.


State Policies To Support DACA Recipients
The policies noted below are purposefully decoupled from DACA to ensure that current DACA beneficiaries have access to these protections regardless of the SCOTUS decision.
In-State Tuition and Financial Aid for Higher EducationLearn More

When students have access to lower-cost in-state tuition, regardless of immigration status, they are more likely to graduate from high school and pursue higher education. Granting access to state financial aid further addresses the barrier of college affordability, helping ensure immigrant youth are able to enroll in school and complete college. Coupled together, these policies help states maximize their return on investment in young immigrant youth. They also ensure young immigrant youth believe in and can benefit from the value of their education.

In-state tuition enacted in: CT, FL, KS, KY, MI, NE, RI, UT
In-state tuition and access to financial aid enacted in: CA, CO, HI, IL, MD, MN, NJ, NM, NY, OK, OR, TX, WA, and DC

Professional Licensure and CertificationLearn More

States should adopt policies expanding professional licensure and certification to anyone who meets qualification, regardless of immigration status. Those able to complete post-high school education programs or job training need to know that their education is of value and will not be hindered due to their inability to get certified because of their immigration status. States moving forward on such policies see multiple benefits, including a boost to their economy, an increased workforce to meet job demand, a return to their educational investments in immigrant workers, and a promotion of economic self sufficiency.

Policies (decoupled from DACA across multiple professions) enacted in: CA, NM, and NV

Affordable Access to Health CareLearn More

COVID-19 is demonstrating the devastating effects of being uninsured. When people forgo health care because it is unaffordable, medical conditions that can exacerbate other illnesses go unaddressed, endangering lives. States can and must ensure all individuals have access to affordable health care coverage, regardless of immigration status. While some states have moved forward to ensure pregnant women (17 states and DC) and children (6 states) are included in health care coverage regardless of immigration status; only California has further expanded health care coverage to include young adults age 19–25.

Driver’s Licenses that Protect Applicant InformationLearn More

Allowing immigrants, regardless of immigration status, access to driver’s licenses helps them move around for essential tasks safely while helping decriminalize interactions with police. It also improves public safety and reduces insurance premiums. No individual should be fearful that applying for a license will put them and their families at risk. States should adopt policy to ensure that information provided to driver’s license agencies is protected from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies for immigration enforcement purposes.

Driver’s license access enacted in: CO, CT, MD, NM, NV, OR, UT, VT, WA
Driver’s licenses access that protects applicant Information enacted in: CA, DE, HI, NJ, NY, as well as DC and PR

Strengthen Enforcement of Labor LawsLearn More

Under federal law, all immigrants, regardless of immmigration status, have certain labor protections including not being discriminated against by employers on the basis of race; employers complying with health, safety, and minimum wage requirements; and the ability to unionize. However, labor laws are not equally enforced across states. State policy can protect immigrant workers against labor law violations by prohibiting employers from contacting immigration authorities about an employee or an employee’s family member, strengthening penalties for employer violations or retaliation against employees, increasing oversight by allocating funding for additional state investigators trained on the rights of immigrant employees, and ensuring all categories of workers are included in protections.

Policies enacted in: CA, MA, NY, and WA

Disentanglement between Local Police and ImmigrationLearn More

Local involvement in immigration enforcement makes local agencies the gateway to deportation, increases racial discrimination, strips communities of any sense of safety, and undermines the rule of law. States can prioritize protecting their immigrant populations from detention and deportation by restricting local government entities within their jurisdiction from spending time, money, or other resources to collaborate with immigration enforcement.

Policies enacted in: CA, CO, IL,NJ, NY, OR, VT, and DC

Universal RepresentationLearn More

When individuals show up to immigration court unrepresented by legal counsel, they are forced to face a complex and unfamiliar legal system that disregards due process, which can result in mass deportations and missed potential opportunities for relief. State policy can create a fully funded universal representation program to ensure immigrants have access to legal representation before immigration courts.

Funds for immigration legal defense have generally begun with pilot programs that are then scaled for impact. NY has a statewide project and communities within eleven states are part of Vera Institute of Justice’s SAFE Network.

The summary of these policies was drafted in collaboration with United We Dream in light of the upcoming SCOTUS decision on DACA. 

About the Author

Portrait of Rosario Villarreal, she has straight black hair, tortoise shell glasses, and a wide smile.
Rosario Quiroz Villarreal Education + Early Years

Rosario Quiroz Villarreal is an advocate for immigrants and students. Growing up as an undocumented immigrant, Rosario understood that her parents made sacrifices in moving to a new country in order to secure better opportunities for the future. At Next100, Rosario focuses on protecting the rights and access to education of immigrant students, creating more culturally inclusive classrooms, and interrupting the school-to-prison pipeline.

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