The National UnDACAmented Research Project is a national study looking to understand the effects of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on the lives of young people. Victoria Villalba, NURP Arizona Project Coordinator discusses the study.
JOSE CARDENAS: It's been more than two years since the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, which does not provide permanent lawful status to applicants, but does give them a temporary suspension of deportation and authorization to work in the United States. There are different research projects looking at how the DACA program has affected recipients. One is the unDACAmented project from NURP, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Joining us now to talk about this project is Viktoria Villalba, welcome to "Horizonte," thank you for joining us this evening. Our earlier segment talked about a decision that relates to an expansion of DACA. Your program went into effect in 2012. Tell us about the study, how it originated, and we'll talk about some of the details.
VIKTORIA VILLALBA: The first phase of the project we were looking at data, demographic data to understand what -- what are the stories of folks, and to capture this in a survey form. I think it was around 2000 interviews across the country, surveys actually across the country that we were able to conduct.
JOSE CARDENAS: And what are you trying to determine? There must be a theory you have about the impact that DACA has had or could have?
VICTORIA VILLALBA: Yes. There are a lot of different hypotheses. One of the major hypotheses is to note the difference in opportunities folks have after receiving DACA. What is the liminal shift in status from being undocumented to DACA-mented. What are the realities that folks face in terms of their lives. The goal for us is to eventually implement policy to understand at the policy level, and also for direct service providers in the education realm mostly.
JOSE CARDENAS: And what would be an example of that? I assume you're talking about experiences people have had and why things didn't go as smoothly as people would want, you're making recommendations about that?
VIKTORIA VILLALBA: Absolutely. One of the things in educators is understanding what are the needs of student that receive DACA. Not just their needs, but how do you shift resources within the institutions to help students be successful.
JOSE CARDENAS: I want to talk a little bit about some of the information you've gathered to date. Before you do that, you're looking at students who are eligible for DACA, both those who applied and received it and those who haven't applied.
VICTORIA VILLALBA: In 2012 when DACA was announced, some qualified for DACA except for the education requirements and didn't apply. So that's a sub-population within our sampling frame that we're trying to reach out to. We have very few numbers right now because it is a hard to reach population, but we're working towards that.
JOSE CARDENAS: So far, what have you found?
VICTORIA VILLALBA: We've conducted over 53 interviews in the state of Arizona. What we've found is that the folks that are more open to talk about their experience are folks that have gone through higher education. And it's for our population, for folks we want to reach. They have very, very diverse stories, their parents, they work full time, so there's definitely a shift in the demographics of eligible folks, that was a little surprising for us.
JOSE CARDENAS: A shift in what sense?
VICTORIA VILLALBA: A shift in terms of them being open to sharing their story. For example folks who work three jobs or two jobs, and there's a language barrier, Most of them just speak Spanish. Those are the folks we want to talk to but it's been a challenge for us as researchers to be able to talk to them.
JOSE CARDENAS: And you indicated and made reference to just now the difficulty of identifying the folks and getting them to talk to you. Is it just language barriers cause there are many thousands and thousands of people who are eligible for that status, you would think it's pretty easy to find them.
VICTORIA VILLALBA: It's not just language, it may have to do with our own outreach strategies, but I do also think that even with folks that are interested, by the time we're interviewing or by the time we have a set date something happens in terms of them being parents. This is just from the few outreach sessions that we've had, folks that have turned down their commitments because they don't have a ride or there's something that happens that weekend. They have learned their schedule for the next three days. So I think there's definitely more into that demographic.
JOSE CARDENAS: Are you talking to family members and other people who surround them to figure out the impact of what that is?
VICTORIA VILLALBA: However, that is part of our broader scope, that we want to understand that mixed status families and --
JOSE CARDENAS: When we talked about mixed status, families that have people who are here lawfully and those who don't.
VICTORIA VILLALBA: Yes, yes, definitely.
JOSE CARDENAS: And as I understand it you've got a preliminary report in the works about to be released?
VICTORIA VILLALBA: Yes, June 2nd there is going to be a report out with preliminary data.
JOSE CARDENAS: Is this a national report?
VICTORIA VILLALBA: Yes, yes.
JOSE CARDENAS: What can we expect from this report?
VICTORIA VILLALBA: I think because it's a qualitative study, and it depends who you ask. I think for folks who are very aware of the DACA think like, undocumented, go through undocumented folks. But at the same time I feel that it's new so proposed that DACA is new, they might get a lot more of the life of that person because it's a qualitative study.
JOSE CARDENAS: One of the things we've noted before on this show in recent months, the official two-year period is running out. People who got their DACA status right away need to renew. Have you seen anything about whether the people had renewed, or why they would not.
VICTORIA VILLALBA: Yes, and I can speak very minimal about it but what I am seeing or we're seeing is that it's very complicated. The cases are very complex and timelines are very different from when we first started. In this report and in later reports we will get a lot of kind of like overview or a map as to when folks applied the first time and their renewal process.
JOSE CARDENAS: One last question on that: There have been some recent decisions favorable to DACA students in terms of tuition at community colleges and Universities. Before that, there's some suggestion that because as a practical matter,the cost, that might be a reason people were not renewing their DACA status. Did you see any of that?
VICTORIA VILLALBA: No, not right now. I don't have anything to speak to that. However, with the group of educators that I talked to, there have been some conversations around what do folks want to do after receiving DACA, like, what are their next steps, for example, a professional study, I want to get a better job, or pursuing higher education.
JOSE CARDENAS: Viktoria Villalba, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte" this evening.
VICTORIA VILLALBA: Thank you.
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Victoria Villalba:NURP Arizona Project Coordinator