Since President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in June 2012, the CBF has played a lead role in mobilizing the local grantmaking community to provide special funding that already has helped thousands of young people in the Chicago area obtain protection under DACA. Your contributions to the Investing in Justice Campaign the past two years made it possible for the CBF to be one of the lead funders in a larger philanthropic collaborative that already has distributed more than $800,000 in grants and includes contributions from ten local foundations and substantial matching contributions from two national foundations.
[pullquote align=”right”]Almost 60 percent of recipients have obtained a new job since being granted Deferred Action, 57 percent have obtained a driver’s license, more than 50 percent have opened a first bank account, and 33 percent have secured a first credit card.[/pullquote]DACA in Illinois
DACA, a program benefitting young undocumented immigrants who were brought to America as children, protects those who meet certain criteria from deportation for two years and opens the door to important economic and social opportunities. In Illinois, 49,000 young immigrants, the majority having come from Mexico and Latin America, were eligible to apply. One year later, 64 percent of eligible young people had applied for protection and nearly 87 percent have been approved to date, making Illinois the third leading state in number of applicants and percentage of eligible immigrants filing applications, and first in approval rates.
Illinois Funders DACA Relief Initiative
With the large and immediate response of applicants overwhelming Chicago’s immigrant legal aid community, the CBF was one of five local foundations to begin funding DACA. These early supporters soon formed the Illinois Funders DACA Relief Initiative (IDRI), which first awarded grants for DACA public education and legal services in December 2012. IDRI donors are local and national foundations that in addition to the CBF include The Chicago Community Trust, the Polk Bros. Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Chicago Foundation for Women, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, The Mayer and Morris Kaplan Family Foundation, Roy G. Kerr Foundation, the Wieboldt Foundation, the Woods Fund of Chicago, the Fund for New Citizens of the New York Community Trust, and two foundations that prefer to be anonymous.
As of May 2014, the IDRI collaborative has awarded $806,790 in grants to 24 nonprofit organizations in metropolitan Chicago. These organizations provide legal information and assistance for young people with their DACA applications, outreach and community education, and the early coordination and planning for comprehensive immigration reform. By coming together, we created a more streamlined and unified application process for organizations applying for money and expedited the process to quickly get the grant dollars into the communities where they were needed, said Dina Merrell, CBF associate director. Further, by raising funds locally, we leveraged significant national matching dollars. Together we expanded IDRI’s grantmaking and helped build the capacity of immigrant legal aid and community-based organizations to serve these youth.
The immigrant legal aid organizations provide services such as: screening clients for eligibility, through which some may find they are eligible for more permanent forms of relief; help with completing and filing applications; counseling the youth on their options and offering advice; and organizing educational group workshops. These grants helped one organization, the National Immigrant Justice Center, to train and support hundreds of pro bono attorneys from dozens of law firms and corporate legal departments to assist young people applying for DACA.
DACA is a partial and temporary solution, but early findings from research are encouraging and demonstrate that DACA opens the door to new, life-changing opportunities. The MacArthur Foundation made a three-year grant of $600,000 for longitudinal research by Roberto Gonzalez, Ph.D. about the impact of DACA. He found that almost 60 percent of recipients have obtained a new job since being granted Deferred Action, 57 percent have obtained a driver’s license, more than 50 percent have opened a first bank account, and 33 percent have secured a first credit card.
The positive impact on young immigrants receiving Deferred Action is great. In addition to the benefits of allowing them to remain in this country without fear of deportation, DACA gives these young aspiring Americans the ability to apply for work permits and helps them secure economic and social opportunities, Merrell added.
With DACA expiring for the first group of DACA recipients and thousands of young people potentially eligible for DACA who have yet to apply, IDRI will award a new round of grants in September 2014 to support community education campaigns about DACA, DACA legal services and technical assistance, and training for legal services providers to strengthen their DACA work.