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New DACA Opinion Essays in New York Times from Gaby Pacheco and TheDream.US Alum Esder Chong

For Immediate Release: June 27, 2022

Contact: Michael Earls at [email protected]


New DACA Opinion Essays in New York Times from Gaby Pacheco and TheDream.US Alum Esder Chong 

Read the NYTimes essay series in English here and Spanish here


Washington, DC – This weekend, the New York Times published a collection of powerful, first-person opinion essays from current and former Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients as we commemorate this month’s 10-year anniversary of DACA.

The essays, “Growing Up in the Shadow of DACA,” drive home the transformative nature of this popular and life-changing program, while underscoring the importance of building on DACA to deliver a permanent legislative solution given continued threats to the program’s future. On July 6th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear oral arguments in the case brought by the State of Texas’ challenging  DACA.

While the entire essay collection is worth reading, available in English here and Spanish here, below we present key excerpts from the essays of TheDream.US Director of Advocacy, Development, and Communications Gaby Pacheco and from former TheDream.US Scholar and Rutgers-Newark graduate Esder Chong:

Gaby Pacheco:

“If I close my eyes, I can still hear the birds chirping in the White House Rose Garden the day President Barack Obama announced the program that would change my life and hundreds of thousands of others. I felt like one of those happy birds, freed from the golden cage in which I lived.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has been one of the most successful immigration programs in the history of the United States. It has offered a glimpse of what citizenship and full participation in American life would mean for undocumented immigrants.

…Yet these statistics pale in comparison with the individual stories of dreams big and small fulfilled thanks to DACA. The smiling family on a grassy quad celebrating a college graduation. The nervous first-day-of-work selfie before starting a dream job. Advance parole allowed Dreamers to see their grandparents overseas without worrying that they would be barred from re-entering the United States.

When we talk about immigration, we often say that undocumented people live in the shadows. DACA had the effect of turning the light switch on. As soon as the program opened doors for us, we hit the ground running. Work authorization allowed me to help start TheDream.US scholarship program, which has provided more than 8,750 college scholarships to Dreamers. I was able to purchase my first home, start a retirement plan and get a driver’s license. Eventually, through a marriage petition, I was able to obtain a green card.

…In the process, the legal challenges and ups and downs remind us that for all of its successes, DACA does not provide the certainty that its recipients or America need.

…Most Dreamers are not experts on the nuances of DACA legal challenges and don’t read Beltway accounts of how the filibuster again stymies legislative progress. But they do remember the promises that elected officials have long made about delivering a permanent fix. And like me, many do recall that beautiful June day 10 years ago, when the promise of more fully participating in America was made an imperfect reality.”

Esder Chong:

“I was granted deferred action when I was 15 years old. Because of it, I was able to apply for scholarships, pursue a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees and apply to internships. While in college, I was able to pursue professional opportunities at the National Immigration Law Center, George Washington Law School and Gov. Phil Murphy’s Office of Federal Relations. I am currently a project consultant at Boldly Go Philanthropy, a start-up consulting group. I recently graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and previously completed my first master’s at Tsinghua University as a Schwarzman scholar. I could not have come this far without DACA.

DACA gives some sense of security, but only in the short term. Every two years I have to reapply and go through the process all over again. In the past five years, the program has been under the threat of rescission, further highlighting how fragile the security it actually provides is. It’s also conflicting to know family and friends who are also undocumented and don’t benefit from the same protections. It’s difficult to watch those dynamics play out in my own social circle.

To me this anniversary is not one that calls for celebration. When I think of the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country who are aging and in increasingly urgent need of support or access to health care, it’s hard for me to be celebrating a program that was intended to be exclusive from its inception. If and when DACA is rescinded, we need a plan for the undocumented community at large. Congress has no plan. Immigrant rights organizations are not in agreement on what the plan should be.

…It’s time to think outside the box and rally around the actual wants and needs of the broader community. As a DACA recipient who calls New Jersey home and a daughter of undocumented parents, I urge legislators and immigrant rights leaders and organizations and allies and friends to seriously consider a push for federal legislation that provides a pathway to residency — a legal status for all. This isn’t the sexiest message, but it’s a measure worth considering to move our community forward.”

About TheDream.US

TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college and career success program for immigrant youth, has provided more than 8,750 college scholarships to undocumented students attending 70+ partner colleges in 19 states and Washington, DC. We believe everyone should have the opportunity to pursue a college education.