Dreamers & DACA: Information for Schools
As news reports about the future of DACA dominate the headlines, schools and individual educators can play an important role in helping to inform and support immigrant students and families during uncertain times.
Changes in DACA policy will have an impact on a wide range of groups served by K-12 schools and higher education, including: students in high school, college, and graduate school; young professionals, including thousands of teachers working across the country; and children whose parents and older siblings may be affected.
You can learn more about DACA and "Dreamers" below. We will add updates as they become available. For more information on supporting immigrant students, see our related resource section.
Note: We have selected a range of resources providing useful information for schools and educators. While some of this material includes advocacy information, Colorín Colorado and our parent organization, public broadcasting station WETA-TV-FM, do not take political positions or participate in political advocacy. In addition, if your students or families are looking for legal advice, we strongly encourage you to collaborate with immigration attorneys or organizations who have the most updated information possible.
Photo credit: PBS NewsHour, 2017.
What is DACA?
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a policy passed by President Barack Obama through executive action in 2012 focused on undocumented youth who have lived in the U.S. since childhood, often referred to as "Dreamers". DREAM Act legislation has been introduced multiple times to address their situation but has not yet succesfully made it through Congress.
This summary from NPR provides a helpful overview:
DACA is the acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program created in 2012 by the Obama administration allowing young people brought to this country illegally by their parents to get a temporary reprieve from deportation and to receive permission to work, study, and obtain driver's licenses.
DACA applicants had to be younger than 31 years old when the program began. They also had to prove that they had lived in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007, and that they had arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16.
Those signing up for DACA must show that they have clean criminal records. They have to be enrolled in high school or college, or serve in the military. Their status is renewable every two years.
You may see references to the young people who have applied for DACA as "DACAmented."
Updated: In late April 2018, a federal judge ruled that "protections must stay in place and that the government must resume accepting new applications." However, the judge "stayed his decision for 90 days and gave the Department of Homeland Security, which administers the program, the opportunity to better explain its reasoning for canceling it. If the department fails to do so, it 'must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications.'" (The New York Times)
This follows an earlier decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene on the fate of DACA. To read more about that Supreme Court decision and what it means, see related coverage from Education Week, The Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR, PBS NewsHour, and USA Today.
Below are related resources and updates for educators; we will add new resources as they become available.
Meet Teachers with DACA
This program originally aired on the PBS NewsHour on 4/25/17.
DACA: FAQs and News
- DREAM Act/Deferred Action Resources (Migration Policy Institute)
- DACA: FAQs and Updates (National Immigration Legal Center)
- DACA Update for Educators (American Federation of Teachers)
- DACA Guide for Educators and Support Staff (American Federation of Teachers)*
- DACA Voices: Immigration Stories (American Federation of Teachers)
- Meet the Dreamers: Personal Stories (National Education Association)
- Resources for Educators/Counselors Working with Undocumented Students (My (Un)Documented Life)
- Undocumented Student Program (University of California at Berkeley)
- Why teachers are training themselves to be 'dreamer' allies (PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs)
- Teachers as Allies: Transformative Practices for Teaching DREAMers and Undocumented Students (Teachers College Press, 2017)
- Ed School Hosts Panel on Supporting Undocumented Students (The Harvard Crimson)
*This information has not yet been updated to reflect changes regarding DACA policy; nevertheless, it provides a helpful introduction to educators interested in learning more about DACA and DREAMers.
Mental Health Resources for Immigrant Students
Colorín Colorado: Educator Interviews
- Finding Where the Hope Is: Supporting Immigrant Students as a School Psychologist by Lisa Peterson, Ph.D., LSSP, NCSP - Dallas, TX
- All Hands on Deck: Creating Immigrant Support Teams for Students in Topeka by Sarah Fladwood-Handley – Topeka, KS
- Video: Social-Emotional Support for Immigrant Students with Lori Dodson: Facebook Live Archive – MD
- Video: Why Building Relationships with ELLs Matters with Anne Marie Foerster Luu: Facebook Live Archive – MD
Featured Book: Teachers as Allies
Lori Dodson and Anne Marie Foerster Luu are co-editors of and contributors to Teachers as Allies: Transformative Practices for Teaching DREAMers & Undocumented Students (Teachers College Press, 2017). They each discuss some highlights from the book in the following clips of their interviews with Colorín Colorado.
More Recommended Resources
- Supporting Undocumented Students: Tips from Dr. Roberto Gonzales (Harvard Graduate School of Education)
- How Teachers Can Help Immigrant Students Feel Safe (Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley)
- Mental Health Resources for Immigrant Students (Share My Lesson)
- Social Support Services for ELLs (Baltimore City School District)
- Resources for Promoting Safe, Healthy and Welcoming Schools (Boston Public Schools)
- Understanding and addressing the needs of unaccompanied immigrant minors (American Psychological Assocation, 2016)
- Helping immigrant children heal (American Psychological Assocation, 2015)
- Mental Health Support: Undocumented Student Program (University of California at Berkeley)
- My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant by Jose Antonio Vargas (The New York Times Magazine, 2011)
Related News Headlines
Updates & analysis
- Latest DACA Ruling Could Open the Door for Thousands of Immigrants in High School (Education Week)
- The little-known benefit of DACA: It reduced mental illness in dreamers' children (The Washington Post)
- As DACA Winds Down, DREAMers Turn Toward Different Futures (NPR)
- What Students with DACA Are Worried About (PBS NewsHour)
- Podcast: Dismantling DACA (Latino USA)
- DACA-nomics (Latino USA)
- Latino USA Listeners React to End of DACA (Latino USA)
- New Study Says That DACA-Eligible Immigrants Contribute $2 Billion Annually in State and Local Taxes (Latino USA)
- Trump rescinds DACA, leaving undocumented youth unshielded (PBS NewsHour)
- Life interrupted by DACA teacher Areli Zarate
- Opinion: A Raleigh teacher learns from DACA: 'I am both Mexican and American' (The News & Observer)
- Uncertain About Their Own Futures, DACA Teachers Find Special Connection with Students (WNYC News)
- As DACA winds down, 20,000 educators are in limbo (The Washington Post)
- Nearly 9,000 DACA Teachers Face An Uncertain Future (NPR)
- With DACA in Limbo, Teachers Protected by the Program Gird for the Worst (The New York Times)
- For Teachers Working Through DACA, a Bittersweet Start to the School Year (The New York Times)
- The end of DACA will affect thousands of teachers, too (Univision)
- Undocumented Teachers Shielded by DACA in Legal and Emotional Limbo (Education Week)
- Immigration crackdown fuels uncertainity for undocumented students and teachers (PBS NewsHour)
- I know the fears of immigrants in the schools I oversee. I was undocumented myself. (The Washington Post)
- Column: I’m a teacher, a ‘Dreamer’ and I know why my students are scared (PBS NewsHour)
The long road to college for undocumented students
- Undocumented Latino Students and the DREAM of Pursuing College (Colorín Colorado article by Dr. Frances Contreras)
- Working long hours adds hurdle for undocumented students who dream of college (PBS NewsHour)
- Despite DACA uncertainty, Dreamers still determined to go to college (CNN Money)
- Without Financial Aid, One Teacher Tries To Help Undocumented Seniors (Rhode Island Public Radio)
Related Books and Booklists for Kids/Teens