On the second anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, some advocates say the program that allows certain undocumented young people to stay in the country on a work permit has not only helped cardholders, but has improved the economy overall.
After two years living under DACA, Anthony Ng said he no longer feels nervous.
“I’ve gotten used to saying ‘My name is Anthony. I’m undocumented,’” he says. “Coming out of the shadows took away the burden.”
Ng is working full time at the Asian American Advancing Justice Center. He first spoke to NBC4 two years ago when he had just gotten his DACA card and was only an intern.
“I remember graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in political science and not knowing if I could even work,” he says.
The program allows certain young people like Ng to work legally in the U.S. and be safe from deportation for two years, with the opportunity to renew.
Lorena Castellanos was renewing her card Friday at the immigration advocacy offices of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, or CHIRLA.
She and her sister are both part of the DACA program.
“It brought my parents ease because we were now bringing money to help them with rent or paying for food,” Castellanos says.
The financial success of the program isn’t just a family affair, but community wide. According to
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, California has the most deferred action recipients in the nation.
CHIRLA reviewed 210 returning locals and found tax revenue generated by this group statewide is an estimated $16 million a year.
Thats about 4 million grande-sized starbucks lattes, 20,000 pothole repairs a year and enough to pay the average salary of nearly 300 LA City firefighters
“By highlighting these earnings numbers is to shed a light as to the benefits of what administrative relief might mean for millions of other undocumented immigrants,” says Jorge Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for CHIRLA.
Additional administrative options might mean possibilities for the parents of DACA youth. President Obama is now considering a status reprieve for them.
“I feel like I am making my parents proud. I feel like I can say ‘hey, your struggle - it's worth it. I’m living proof of it,’” says Rosa Isela Barrientos
Barrientos is renewing as well. Revenues from application fees alone here in California have generated about $71 million according to CHIRLA.
“It’'s been kind of like a dream come true,” Barrientos says.
A dream that admittedly comes with more struggle.
“Many of us are here undocumented not by choice but because of policies that are broken that don't make sense,” Ng says.
Ng says his work as a policy advocate goes beyond just helping other undocumented peers but creating an understanding that many - regardless of legal status - can relate to.
“Migration is a survival tool,” Ng says. “We migrate to survive make sure our families are fed.”