ROSWELL, Ga. — The decision to rescind the national Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy earlier this fall is hitting home for families in North Fulton. And North Fulton Community Charities are already seeing its effects.
“In all of our areas and programs, we’ve seen an impact,” said NFCC Director of Programs Eden Purdy. “From families not coming for food, not coming out for basic needs assistance, financial assistance – because people are afraid of coming out of their homes.”
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was created in 2012 it help undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors to obtain a two-year renewal of deportation proceedings along with a work permit. North Fulton Community Charities says 24,400 people in Georgia are currently enrolled in the program which is expected to phase out starting in March, unless Congress replaces it with comparable legislation.
Charity officials say they see approximately 100 people a year as part of their application process for DACA. But since January, those numbers have decreased “tremendously” as people have dropped out, left the state or seemingly disappeared.
In fiscal year 2016, the charity says 153 individuals enrolled in its GED program. More than a quarter self-disclosed DACA as their reason for enrolling. Of the 108 students who have graduated from the GED program, almost half were DACA recipients.
“That’s a huge demographic in our community that supports our workforce and economic growth,” Purdy said. “It was a way for those undocumented immigrants who were young children to be able to work and drive legally. To take that away from them will really hurt our community and workforce.”
With the changes to national policy under the Trump Administration, the charity has seen a 31 percent decrease in Hispanic participants in the first quarter of 2017.
During NFCC’s fiscal year 2017, the organization assisted 4,131 Hispanic clients - about 44 percent of the total clientele served.
Likewise, almost half of their GED program students are DACA recipients. Many of them went on to Perimeter College and other surrounding institutions.
One recipient currently studies at Gwinnett Tech for engineering. Because of DACA and obtaining his GED, he no longer needs government or private assistance from NFCC to support himself.
“One story that always stayed with me is one where a young man started as a bus boy at a local restaurant and he came to English classes and applied to DACA in 2013,” Purdy said. “In 2014, he did receive his DACA status, he was able to drive and got his driver’s license. Because he had learned English and he had his DACA work permit, he was able to get a job as a waiter at a restaurant.”
With the help of DACA and NFCC, the man was able to successfully transition from not working legally and being paid in cash to working legally and paying taxes.
“He was actually contributing to government services and our economy and our community, while he was earning enough income to support himself,” Purdy said.
“If DACA goes away, then we’re back to having a group of immigrants who don’t have any options except to work illegally and to live in fear,” Purdy said. “It’s a sad situation.”
The NFCC Board of Directors said in a statement that the organization “supports continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and supports legislation that protects recipients from deportation.” Representatives of NFCC have already reached out to state legislators to protect DACA recipients.