Washington, D.C. — As the November elections draw near, recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) continue to be hopeful and are increasing their civic engagement—with 94.4 percent planning to encourage family and friends to vote—to fight back despite the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fear of losing their status following recent policy changes from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). These are the main results of a new survey published today by the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at the University of California, San Diego; United We Dream; the National Immigration Law Center; and the Center for American Progress.
In its sixth edition, the first part of the survey, published today by CAP, continues to show that DACA recipients are contributing significantly to American society and the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the program being a lifeline for immigrants and their families. These contributions could be jeopardized after DHS’ recent policy changes could potentially undo the gains that DACA recipients have made. The second part, published by United We Dream, reveals the tremendous resolve among DACA recipients to be civically engaged to defend their protections from deportation, with a stunning 94.4 percent of surveyed beneficiaries planning to use their voice to encourage family members or friends who are eligible to vote to do so in the upcoming election.
Key findings include:
- 46.1 percent reported that they have become more politically active since receiving DACA.
- 52 percent reported that they have become more involved in their communities after receiving DACA.
- 89.6 percent reported that they support or strongly support the Black Lives Matter movement.
- 41.2 percent reported they had participated in a campaign to protest the killing of Black people over the past 12 months.
- 81.3 percent reported signing a petition, and 56.6 percent donated to an organization that advocates for racial justice and equity.
Given DHS’ recent attempt to dismantle the DACA initiative, in part by limiting recipients to only one year of protection at a time, many recipients expressed fears of losing their status:
- 39.3 percent were less likely to seek treatment or testing for COVID-19.
- 32 percent were less likely to participate in public events where police may be present.
- 49.6 percent were less likely to report wage theft by their employer.
- 67.4 percent were less likely to pursue new educational opportunities if needed.
- 58 percent were less likely to do business—such as open a bank account or get a loan—that required them to disclose their personal contact information.
The survey highlights that work authorization has been instrumental in ensuring that DACA recipients can participate more fully in the U.S. labor force:
- 63.2 percent of respondents reported moving to a job with better pay.
- 52.6 percent reported moving to a job that “better fits my education and training.”
- 83.5 percent reported that increased earnings have “helped my family financially.”
- Among respondents currently in school, 86.4 reported that their increased earnings helped pay for tuition.
- 91.8 percent said that DACA allowed them to pursue “educational opportunities that [they] previously could not.”
The results also include the impact of the coronavirus pandemic among DACA beneficiaries, including dozens of data points on recipients’ impact on employment, earnings, business ownership, the economy, and education. Among the key findings, after receiving DACA:
- 45.1 percent reported that they lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 18.9 percent reported difficulties paying their mortgage during the pandemic.
- Among nonhomeowners, 32.4 percent reported difficulties paying rent during the pandemic.
- 45.1 percent reported that they lost their job due to the pandemic.
- 57.7 percent reported, “I have continued to work during the COVID-19 pandemic due to being an essential worker.”
As DHS has reduced the length of DACA protections, survey results show that DACA recipients continue to worry about the threat of deportation and family separation, as well as loss of employment:
- Among those with children, 76.6 percent reported that they think about “being separated from my children because of deportation” at least once a day, and 72.8 percent think about “not being able to see my children grow up because of deportation” at least once a day.
- 5 percent of respondents who are currently employed said that having only one year of DACA “makes it more difficult for me to keep my job.”
“In a presidential election year with so much at stake, the data make clear that DACA recipients will not be passive observers, as more than 9 out of every 10 of our respondents reported that they will use their voice to encourage those who are eligible to vote to do so. Despite the repeated attempts to end DACA and the continued uncertainty surrounding the program, DACA recipients have become more engaged. Nearly half report being more involved in their communities after receiving DACA, and against the backdrop of our national reckoning around racial injustice, just more than 4 out of every 10 reported participating in a campaign to protest the killing of unarmed Black men and women,” said Tom K. Wong, associate professor of political science and founding director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at the University of California, San Diego, and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Juliana Macedo do Nascimento, state and local policy manager of United We Dream, added:
This year’s survey results show us that despite what we’ve lived the past four years, no matter the attacks on our communities, immigrant youth continue to be resilient and willing to fight to ensure we are here to stay. DACA recipients are fired up to get involved to fight for our future. Despite being unable to vote, DACA recipients are ensuring their voices are heard. The results of the survey also show that DACA recipients continue to be deeply concerned about the threat of deportation and family separation should DACA end, in addition to concern about added hardships as a result of COVID-19. It’s imperative that DHS rescind its latest memo limiting the DACA program, so recipients can feel safe in renewing and so eligible youth can apply for the first time.
Philip E. Wolgin, managing director of Immigration Policy at CAP, added:
Year after year, our surveys of recipients illustrate just how crucial DACA remains for hundreds of thousands of people all across the country, as well as their families and communities. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, and even with the relentless attacks by the Department of Homeland Security on the program, DACA recipients remain resilient. More than half of those surveyed who are in the workforce are in essential roles, going to work day in and day out to help their fellow Americans. Now more than ever, we must protect DACA and ensure that recipients continue to be protected.
The survey was conducted from August 18 to September 10, 2020, by the authors. It includes 1,157 DACA recipients in 44 states as well as Washington, D.C.
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