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The High Economic Cost of Delaying DAPA and Expanded DACA

On November 20, 2014, President Barack Obama announced a series of administrative actions on immigration that, among other things, created a way to unlock the economic potential of nearly 4 million unauthorized immigrants who are living in the United States. These actions included the expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program and the creation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA program. Both of these initiatives would provide work permits and temporary relief from deportation to eligible unauthorized immigrants. If DAPA and expanded DACA had been implemented as planned, they already would have improved the lives of millions of unauthorized immigrants and their U.S.-citizen children and benefitted the national and individual state economies.

Unfortunately, these initiatives are on hold as a result of a legal challenge led by the state of Texas, which was upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, it is up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether to allow millions of eligible individuals to come forward and apply for work permits and temporary reprieves from deportation. Each day without expanded DACA and DAPA, the United States loses out on millions of dollars in gross domestic product, or GDP. And because the benefits from the November 2014 initiatives are cumulative, the United States loses a greater amount of potential economic growth each year.

The costs of continued inaction are too great. The United States can still gain over $180 billion in cumulative GDP over the next decade—not to mention increases in the wages of all Americans and the creation of more jobs each year—if DAPA and expanded DACA are allowed to move forward.

Note: While expanded DACA was set to go into effect on February 18, 2015, and DAPA on May 20, 2015, this analysis begins in June 2015—when both initiatives should have been in effect. The 10-year cumulative GDP estimate of over $180 billion includes data from June 2015 through the end of May 2025. This analysis is based on a previous Center for American Progress study and assumes that after obtaining work permits and temporary relief from deportation, DAPA and DACA expansion recipients would see an 8.5 percent wage gain because they would be able to get jobs that match their skills and would be less vulnerable to wage theft and workplace exploitation.

The cumulative GDP estimates are based on the methods developed in Robert Lynch and Patrick Oakford, “The Economic Effects of Granting Legal Status and Citizenship to Undocumented Immigrants.”

Silva Mathema is a Policy Analyst on the Immigration Policy team at the Center for American Progress.