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Study shows economic benefits for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, and U.S. economy overall

June 19, 2014
Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan

It has now been two years since the Obama Administration announced plans on June 15, 2012 to allow “dreamers”—youth brought to the U.S. at a young age—to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Two years later, what’s the verdict? Did DACA benefit U.S. society? According to a recently released study by a Harvard University professor, DACA has had a decidedly positive impact, resulting in greater employment and educational opportunities for young undocumented immigrants and benefits to the U.S. economy.

Benefits of DACA

What’s DACA?

Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer removal action of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion. Successful applicants received DACA and work authorization for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and in most states, were eligible to receive drivers’ licenses. Unlike the DREAM Act (which Congress has still failed to enact), DACA does not provide an individual with permanent residence nor is it a pathway to citizenship. To learn more about DACA, see our previous blog post here.

The Numbers

To date, more than 550,000 individuals have been approved for DACA.  US Citizenship and Immigration Services has received more than 640,000 DACA applications, a far cry from the estimated 2 million individuals thought to be eligible. Although fewer young people have been able to take advantage of this program than expected, having DACA and work authorization has made a tangible impact on these young peoples’ lives and on the U.S. economy.

The Effects

The National UnDACAmented Research Project (NURP), headed by Harvard University Professor Roberto G. Gonzales, was created to help assess the impact that DACA has had on recipients.  The survey results find that DACA beneficiaries have experienced a “pronounced increase in economic opportunities:” 59% percent obtained a new job; 45% reported increased earnings, and 21% were able to obtain health care for the first time. The study found that the newly DACAmented young adults “demonstrate a strong work ethic that has significant implications for their new status as contributors to our nation’s economy.” Additionally, 21% of DACA recipients in the survey were able to obtain a driver’s license, resulting in safer driver conditions for everyone on the road, as well as increasing DACA recipients’ access to employment, education, and social activities.

The report also provides recommendations for increasing DACA’s effectiveness and its ability to address the needs of DACA recipients and their families. These recommendations have been echoed in another study, by Alabama Appleseed, which stresses the need to make the application process and cost more accessible and to enable more qualified individuals to apply.

Don’t Forget to Renew!

As we near the two year anniversary of when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting DACA applications on August 15, 2012, DACA recipients will need  to renew their DACA and work authorization. See our previous blog post here for more information on DACA renewals.

If you have any questions regarding renewals or initial applications for DACA, please contact the attorneys at Minsky, McCormick and Hallagan.

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