The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


History Behind the Headlines

An image of protesters hold various signs and banners at a DACA rally in San Francisco. Sept. 5, 2017 by Pax Ahimsa Gethen. Used under CC BY-SA 4.0 (

Protesters hold various signs and banners at a DACA rally in San Francisco. Sept. 5, 2017 by Pax Ahimsa Gethen. Used under CC BY-SA 4.0 (

The Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, on Monday. After two lower courts had stopped the government from ending DACA, the Trump administration attempted to skip the court of appeals and go straight to the Supreme Court. However, SCOTUS ruled that a key case dealing with the program would have to be heard by an appeals court before it could be taken up by the high court.

DACA has been a hot topic ever since President Trump threatened its status in September 2017. Public opinion is divided: Some groups are outraged at the very existence of DACA recipients in the U.S., while others are appalled at the idea of sending people back to countries they don’t even know.

>>Learn more about attempts to crack down on undocumented immigration in BackStory’s “Border Patrols.”

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services webpage “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” “Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time.” It does not provide lawful status. However it does make DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, eligible for work authorization.

Often underrepresented is the opinion of DACA recipients themselves. BackStory talked to three students at Smith College who described their experiences as Dreamers.

An image of Rocío Jaime, a student at Smith College.

Rocío Jaime, a student at Smith College.

Rocío Jaime, a student at Smith College, said that “having DACA introduced, really allowed me to feel like a normal American teenager.” Jaime was allowed to get a license and a job without, as she put it, “feeling ashamed.” With DACA, Jaime said she’s been able to avoid things like working “under the table,” something many other undocumented immigrants have endured.

>>Learn more about what it feels like to “become American” in BackStory’s “The Melting Pot.”

Undocumented workers can face abuse and mistreatment by employers because they have few protections under current U.S. law. If a problem arises and they try to challenge their employers, they can be faced with threats of deportation.

The difficulty of living in the U.S. without a social security number is something all three students mentioned. Keilen Martinez almost skipped attending college because she lacked a social security number. Martinez’s DACA status allows her to not only attend school, but to work. She said helping her family out through her employment makes her happy.

The DACA program, created by President Obama in 2012 by way of an executive order, offers eligible participants some protection from deportation and the need to carry work authorization papers. DACA recipients understand that it does not confer citizenship.

An image of Keilen Martinez, a student at Smith College.

Keilen Martinez, a student at Smith College.

“It was created to help the American economy but not to really help immigrants,” said Maria Fuentes, another Smith College student. She pointed out that DACA is “a temporary fix to a problem.” President Obama made a similar statement during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on June 15, 2012. “It’s not a permanent fix,” Obama said. “This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.”

>>Learn more about America’s efforts to restrict immigration in BackStory’s “On the Outs.”

During the same speech, Obama also said, “Precisely because this is temporary, Congress needs to act.” Jamie understands and agrees, but she also urges people to try “instead of seeing it as a law, honestly think about the humans that it affects.” It hurts when she hears some talk about DACA recipients disparagingly. “We are actual human beings who just want to live our lives normally,” Jaime said. “We didn’t ask to be put in this situation.”

About History Behind The Headlines: When breaking news and history collide, BackStory brings the context. This new blog feature takes trending news items and, whenever possible, offers BackStory host commentary or segments from previous episodes that provide a historical viewpoint.

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