Four years ago, on June 15, 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, initiative. Under DACA, unauthorized immigrants who came to the country before age 16; were under age 31 at the time of the announcement; and had been in the country for five years when the initiative was announced are eligible to apply for a two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit.
Since then, DACA has had a major effect on the lives of unauthorized young people. To date, more than 728,000 people have received DACA, out of an estimated 1.16 million people who are currently eligible to apply.
Here are the top four things you need to know on DACA’s fourth anniversary:
- DACA recipients live in all 50 states. While the largest number of DACAmented youth are in California, Texas, Illinois, New York, and Florida, DACA recipients live in and contribute to all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.
- DACA is having a strong economic impact. Survey research by Professor Tom K. Wong, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Center for American Progress found that after DACA, more than two-thirds of recipients were able to secure a job with higher pay, and their wages rose by an average of 45 percent. Higher wages are not just good for recipients but also for all Americans because they stimulate more economic growth and translate into more tax revenue.
- DACA is helping recipients access higher education. Research led by Roberto Gonzales has found that getting higher-paying jobs after DACA is helping recipients afford higher education. Likewise, DACA recipients in Virginia—as well as at select schools in Arizona, Ohio, Missouri, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire—can now qualify for in-state tuition. For those recipients who live in states that do not offer in-state tuition—or that bar such students entirely from enrolling in public institutions—the new Opportunity Scholarship from TheDream.US gives these individuals the potential to attend school in Delaware and Connecticut at decreased rates and receive a scholarship to cover their tuition, room, and board.
- DACA is helping families. DACA recipients are also playing a major role by helping support their families’ economic well-being. In a survey of DACA recipients from United We Dream, or UWD, nearly two-thirds of DACA recipients say that they help their families with rent and utilities. As UWD points out, “In many families, DACA recipients are often the only person with a work permit, which means many of them must help their family financially.”
DACA is only the beginning
Building on the success of DACA, in November 2014, DHS announced two new initiatives as part of a series of administrative actions on immigration. The first was an expansion of DACA to cover those who were over age 31 when DACA was first announced. The second was the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, which allows the parents of citizens and green card holders to apply for a similar reprieve from deportation and a work permit. Together, these initiatives cover roughly 4 million people.
Expanded DACA and DAPA are currently on hold, as they are pending the outcome of a case that the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide later this month. Allowing these initiatives to move forward—combined with the original DACA—would add a cumulative $230 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product, or GDP, over a decade and would mean an additional $805 million in state and local tax revenue collected each year.
Ultimately, though, DACA, expanded DACA, and DAPA only provide temporary relief. Only legislative immigration reform can put people on the road to receive permanent status and citizenship in the United States. Doing so would supercharge the economic benefits from DACA and DAPA. Furthermore, it would add $1.2 trillion to the nation’s cumulative GDP over a decade; raise wages for all Americans; create an average of 145,000 new jobs each year; and raise an additional $2.1 billion in state and local taxes each year. The widespread benefits from the first four years of DACA have thus far illustrated just how beneficial these changes would be to the nation as a whole.
Philip E. Wolgin is the Managing Director for the Immigration Policy team at the Center for American Progress.