RELEASE: DACA Recipients’ Growing Economic and Educational Gains Are at Stake as DACA Faces its Most Serious Threat Yet

Washington, D.C. — The most up-to-date survey of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries clearly shows that recipients continue to make positive and significant contributions to the economy. DACA recipients are working in better jobs; earning higher wages; starting businesses; increasing their purchasing power; and pursuing educational opportunities. The survey published today by Tom K. Wong, the Center for American Progress, the National Immigration Law Center, and United We Dream is also one of the first studies to show how heavily the uncertainty surrounding DACA is weighing on the minds of DACA recipients, as well as how DACA recipients are showing tremendous resolve amid this uncertainty.

Top-line results from the survey’s findings include:

  • 96 percent of DACA recipients are currently in school or are working.
  • The average hourly wage of respondents increased by 78 percent since receiving DACA, from $10.32 per hour to $18.42 per hour. Among respondents 25 years and old, wages increased by 97 percent.
  • 89 percent of respondents, and 92 percent of those 25 years and older, are currently employed. After receiving DACA, 54 percent reported moving to a job with better pay; 46 percent moved to a job with better working conditions; 45 percent moved to a job that better fit their education and training; and 45 percent moved to a job that better fit their long-term career goals.
  • 6 percent of respondents, and 8 percent of those 25 years and older, started their own business after receiving DACA, outpacing the general population in terms of business creation.
  • The purchasing power of DACA recipients continues to increase: 62 percent of respondents reported purchasing their first car, which is important not only in terms of state revenue but also regarding the safety benefits of having more licensed and insured drivers on the roads. Additionally, the survey found that 14 percent of respondents purchased their first home after receiving DACA (20 percent among respondents 25 years and older), which produces broader economic effects, including the creation of jobs and new spending in local economies.
  • The uncertainty created by the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA is taking a toll on the well-being of DACA recipients. Forty-five percent of respondents reported that they think about being detained in an immigration detention facility at least once a day; 55 percent reported that they think about being deported at least once a day; and 64 percent reported that they think about a family member being deported at least once a day. Among parents, 76 percent reported that they think about being separated from their children because of deportation at least once a day, and 74 percent think about not being able to see their children grow up because of deportation at least once a day.
  • Despite the uncertainty, DACA recipients are civically engaged: Since receiving DACA, 49 percent of respondents reported that they have become more politically active; 52 percent reported that they have become more involved in their communities. After their DACA applications were approved, 64 percent reported no longer afraid being of their immigration status, and 64 percent reported feeling more like they belong in the United States.

“Five years of surveying DACA recipients has provided consistent results showing that DACA has not only improved the lives of the recipients, but it has also positively affected their families, the communities in which they live, and our economy more generally,” said Tom K. Wong, senior fellow for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress and associate professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego. “This research, as with previous surveys, continues to show that without DACA, the gains that DACA recipients have made—from employment to earning higher wages and starting their own businesses to pursuing educational opportunities that were previously closed to them—would be impossible. Ending DACA would be cruel and counterproductive and would diminish the gains that DACA recipients have made just as many are beginning to hit their stride in their lives and careers.”

Another new column lays out the uncertainty facing DACA in the courts and what’s at stake if it were to end. If Judge Andrew Hanen, currently hearing a challenge to DACA led by the State of Texas, issues an injunction, and renewals are halted, DACA recipients will begin to lose their protections immediately.

While a substantial number of DACA recipients with expiration dates from March to July have applied for renewal, as of July 31, more than 64,000 DACA recipients with expirations through the rest of the year have yet to submit their renewal applications and are at risk. That number skyrockets in 2019 and 2020. CAP estimates that only 3 percent of Dreamers with DACA expirations in 2019 have submitted renewal applications, leaving an estimated 452,700 at risk. Through July 2020, an additional 156,250 DACA recipients will see their protections disappear.

This means that, putting aside those with pending renewal applications, 1,240 DACA recipients will lose protection every day in 2019, and 732 will lose protection each day through July 2020.

“First and foremost, losing DACA exposes recipients to detention and deportation in an unparalleled era of immigration enforcement,” said Nicole Prchal Svajlenka, senior policy analyst for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress. “It would also force hundreds of thousands of Dreamers from the workplace and, on a state-by-state basis, could end their opportunity to apply for drivers’ licenses and limit access to higher education.”

“Trump’s decision to kill DACA last year was wrong. We have always known the immense impact DACA has made in the life of immigrant youth and our communities. As this administration continues to attack us and feed more immigrants to the deportation force, Congress must vote to defund the deportation agencies and pass legislation to protect immigrants in a way that is permanent and clean,” said Sanaa Abrar, advocacy director at United We Dream. “This year’s survey showed that a large number of DACA recipients are civically engaged, and we are certain we’ll see immigrant youth continue to defend their communities because we are determined to #LiveUnafraid.”

“This study shows, yet again, the enormous impact DACA has had not only on the lives of immigrant youth and their families but also in their communities,” said Ignacia Rodriguez Kmec, immigration policy advocate at the National Immigration Law Center and co-author of the column. “Courageous DACA recipients have thus far obtained various legal victories allowing the DACA program to remain. We will continue to fight alongside immigrant youth, including DACA recipients, to ensure they have a secure future in this country, which is their home.”

Click here to read the results and the methodology: “Amid Legal and Political Uncertainty, DACA Remains More Important Than Ever” by Tom K. Wong, Sanaa Abrar, Tom Jawetz, Ignacia Rodriguez Kmec, Patrick O’Shea, Greisa Martinez Rosas, and Philip E. Wolgin 

Click here to read the column: “Amid Court Challenges, Here’s What Will Happen If DACA Ends” by Nicole Prchal Svajlenka

For more information or to speak with an expert on this topic, please contact Rafael Medina at rjmedina@americanprogress.org or 202.478.5313.