Supporting DREAMers During Their Career Exploration, Job Search

February 19, 2021 | By Kevin Gray

several students smiling

TAGS: best practices, career development, diversity and inclusion, nace insights, operations, special population,

Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

DREAMers are undocumented immigrants who came to this country at a young age and have grown up in America.

“They have attended our K-12 schools and colleges and are a part of our communities,” explains Candy Marshall, who leads TheDream.US, a college success and career program for DREAMers.

They also are productive members of the U.S. workforce. (See “DREAMers Attending U.S. Colleges and in the U.S. Workforce.”) Marshall points out that DREAMers tend to have qualities employees seek, including an ability to adapt, an eagerness to learn, and a determination to succeed that is borne out of their own stories of perseverance.

“Furthermore,” Marshall notes, “they are often bilingual and bring multicultural perspectives that are critical to our businesses.”

However, she adds, there are several obstacles they face that career services professionals can help them navigate.

“As is true of most first-generation, low-income students, DREAMers often do not have networks that are needed to launch their careers,” Marshall says.

“Helping DREAMers understand how to build and nurture networks in their fields of interest is critical.”   

Marshall also explains that while DREAMers with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) have renewable two-year employment authorization documents (“work authorizations”) that allow them to legally work, many businesses and organizations are unclear about their ability to hire DREAMers who have DACA or Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  

“Often,” she says, “employers believe that they will have to ‘sponsor’ these DREAMers—a lengthy process that is expensive,” she says.

“In fact, employers are able to hire a DREAMer just as they would a U.S. citizen. The only difference is that a DREAMer will present an ‘employment authorization document’ instead of a social security card.”

Marshall explains that DREAMers with DACA are secure in their ability to legally work and renew their work authorizations, and it is unlawful for employers to refuse to hire DREAMers who have work authorization or to ask about their immigration status.

TheDream.US has created and collected several resources that can help career services offices support DREAMers and employers, such as by: 

  • Ensuring DREAMers with DACA and TPS understand that they are able to legally work;
  • Helping DREAMers without DACA or TPS understand that they have career pathways open to them as independent contractors, business owners, and through workers cooperatives;
  • Helping educate employers that DREAMers with DACA and TPS are able to work;
  • Helping DREAMers draw on their valuable experiences as immigrants in presenting themselves as DREAMers; and
  • Counseling DREAMers about if and when to disclose their status as DREAMers. Some DREAMers feel this is an important part of who they are and what they bring to the workforce; others do not want to disclose their status and prefer to focus on their experience and expertise related to the position.

“Throughout history, we have seen how immigrants’ contributions have helped our nation grow and innovate,” Marshall says.

“Nearly half of all Fortune 500 companies—including Google, AT&T, and Pfizer—were founded by immigrants or their children. And DACA recipients will contribute more than $460 billion to the national GDP between 2017 and 2027.”

She cites the words of the 143 businesses and associations that filed a pro-DACA Amicus Brief in the Supreme Court case: “Immigrants like DREAMers bring diverse backgrounds and experiences to their workplaces, which bolster their colleagues’ creativity and innovation. . . . [They] have become essential contributors to American companies and the American economy.”

TheDream.US has created and collected several resources that can help career services offices support DREAMers and employers.

DREAMers Attending U.S. Colleges and in the U.S. Workforce
There are:

  • More than 450,000 DREAMers attending college.
  • More than 200,000 DACA recipients working alongside their neighbors in essential roles to keep our communities safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • More than 27,000 DACA recipients working in critical healthcare positions on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis
  • 6,000 DACA recipients working in education, including thousands of K-12 teachers.
  • DREAMers in the workforce at more than 75% of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies, including Apple, General Motors, Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, Home Depot, Walmart, and Wells Fargo.

Source: Candy Marshall, TheDream.US