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White House To Honor DACA Recipients As Champions of Change

Ten young adults from Mexico, Colombia, Taiwan, Morocco, the Philippines and New Delhi will be recognized as "Champions of Change" at a White House ceremony on Tuesday. All of them had been brought to the U.S. as immigrant children and did not have legal status. After applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), they have become "success stories and role models," the White House said in a statement about the upcoming ceremony.

Among them are Steven Arteaga from Houston, Texas, who has been working with Mi Familia Vota after obtaining DACA status last year. Sarahi Espinosa, of East Palo Alto, California, had dropped out of school due to difficult family circumstances but then not only re-enrolled in community college but started a website to help others learn of scholarship opportunities.

Pratishtha Khanna of Laurel, Maryland came to the U.S. from New Delhi when she was 10. Since she has deferred deportation she will be able to work in the emergency room after graduating from the University of Maryland in biology and pursuing her dream of going to medical school. Rhustie Marcelo Valdizno, of Clifton, New Jersey, came from the Philippines when he was 15. He advocates for humane immigration policies as a member of RAISE, a youth-led group.

White House (Karen Bleier / AFP-Getty Images)
At a ceremony on Tuesday, June 17, 2014, the White House will honor young immigrant adults who obtained deferred deportations under the Administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order and have since become leaders in their communities. KAREN BLEIER / AFP/Getty Images

Many of the young people honored have spearheaded initiatives to address immigration issues. Mexican-born Anahi Mendoza of Santa Maria, California, a rising senior at Harvard University, founded a DREAM Club to help undocumented students go to college. Kamal Essaheb, a graduate of Fordham Law School who was born in Morocco, works at the National Immigration Law Center on passage of the DREAM Act and local enforcement of immigration law.

The Obama Administration issued deferred deportation as an executive order two years ago. Since that time tens of thousands of undocumented young immigrants known as DREAMers have applied and just recently became eligible to renew their two-year deportation deferments.

A study released Monday by Harvard researchers Roberto Gonzáles and Angie M. Bautista-Chavez for the American Immigration Council found almost 60 percent of deferred deportation (DACA) recipients surveyed had been able to obtain new jobs, 45 percent had increased their earnings, and almost six-in-ten had obtained driver's licenses, broadening education and employment options.

Moreover, over half of young immigrant adults who got deferred deportation had opened their first bank account and about a third obtained credit cards. More than two-thirds of DACA recipients surveyed were employed.

The study did find, however, that applying for deferred deportation was more prevalent among young immigrant adults with community connections, more schooling and resources.