At the start of this decade, four young undocumented immigrants were determined to make the DREAM Act come true for their generation. First introduced in 2001, the DREAM (short for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act offers legal status to undocumented youth in return for attending college or joining the military.

These four young DREAMers, all of them high school students, marched 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington to draw attention to their cause. They met with President Obama. He heard their plea and, after the Senate voted down the latest version of the DREAM Act in 2011, issued an executive order to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, as the program eventually became known. Begun in 2012, DACA transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth by granting them temporary permission to remain in the country, pursue education, and work legally, even though it offered no path to citizenship.

Since President Trump took office, however, DACA beneficiaries have found themselves in a waking nightmare. The Trump administration has taken a hardline stance against immigrants who lack legal status, and in September of last year, President Trump announced an end to the five-year-old Obama-era policy. Although he has since called the DREAMers “terrific” people and said he wants a “bill of love” to keep them safe from deportation, their future remains far from clear.

Columbia University has joined ranks with other educational institutions in issuing a statement in support of DACA and DACA students. And in February of this year the immigration/migration arm of the Columbia Population Research Center (CPRC), housed within our school, summoned a group of academics and activists for a half-day conference to see if a closer connection could be made between the latest research on immigration and the campaign to ensure that DACA youth do not get deported.

Attended by hundreds of participants, both in person and via Livestream, the conference consisted three panels looking at DACA from multidisciplinary (economic, political, social) as well as policy perspectives. This video presents a few highlights:

In addition, you can watch the entire event in the video embedded below and/or click on the links in the list that follows the video, to be taken to particular speakers’ presentations in YouTube.



  • Mae Ngai (bio), Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and Professor of History, Columbia University 00:06:08
  • Janet Calvo (bio), Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law  00:36:04
  • Elizabeth Vaquera (bio), Associate Professor of Sociology, George Washington University  00:50:39
  • Q&A Panel 1 01:11:35


  • Francesc Ortega (bio), Dina A. Perry Associate Professor in Economics, Queens College of CUNY 01:48:29
  • Caitlin Patler (bio), Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of California, Davis 02:09:49
  • Tom K. Wong (bio), Associate Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego 02:28:58
  • Q&A Panel 2 02:47:10


  • Cristina Jimenez (bio), Executive Director and Co-Founder, United We Dream 03:23:37
  • Anu Joshi (bio), Director of Immigration Policy, New York Immigration Coalition 03:48:46
  • Donald Kerwin Jr. (bio), Executive Director, Center for Migration Studies 04:11:08
  • Q&A Panel 3 04:32:21


  • Suzanne Goldberg (bio), Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law & Executive Vice President for University Life, Columbia University 04:50:22
  • Professor Van C. Tran (bio), Assistant Professor of Sociology, Columbia University; CPRC member; and event organizer 05:01:07

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