2023 DACA Survey Shows Economic Progress, Continued Uncertainty as Litigation Drags On

March 25, 2024

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Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Emily Morris, 213-457-7458

2023 DACA Survey Shows Economic Progress, Continued Uncertainty as Litigation Drags On

WASHINGTON — Since 2012, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has served as a beacon of hope for more than 835,000 undocumented immigrants who call the United States their home. A new survey 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 captures how DACA has allowed recipients to get better jobs, earn more, and seek greater educational opportunities. The survey also catalogs how recipients are contributing to the U.S. economy.

Some key survey findings include:

  • 94.1 percent of respondents are currently employed.
  • Since receiving DACA, recipients’ average hourly wage has more than doubled from $11.92 to $31.52 per hour, an increase of 164.4 percent.
  • 30.7 percent of respondents purchased their first homes in 2023, a percentage that has trended upward over the past decade of surveying DACA recipients.
  • 67.1 percent of survey respondents reported buying their first car after receiving DACA.
  • 32.9 percent of respondents are parents, with 70.7 percent of parents reporting that they think about “being separated from [their] children because of deportation” at least once per day.
  • Without DACA, 40.9 percent of DACA recipients would be less likely to report a crime they witnessed.

“We’ve been surveying DACA recipients for nearly a decade. This year’s survey stands out because it shows that DACA recipients are more integrated in the American economy than they have ever been,” 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 CAP. “DACA recipients are earning more than they ever have, which has enlarged their economic footprint. Recent studies have shown that the economic contributions of immigrants have been crucial to the country’s post-pandemic bounceback and in fighting inflation, and this year’s survey shows that DACA recipients are at the forefront of this.”

“DACA recipients contribute so much to our families, workplaces, and communities,” said Diana Pliego, federal advocacy strategist at the National Immigration Law Center. “I’ve lived in the United States since the age of 3. My life is deeply connected to the United States and the community around me, just like those who were born here and just as other immigrants who have similarly lived here for decades. Our home is here, and we will continue advocating for DACA recipients like me to have the stability of a pathway to citizenship.”

“DACA has never been just about a program; as the results of this survey show, DACA has always been about the immigrant young people, friends, family members, and neighbors who are essential to our lives and the well-being, growth, and betterment of our communities,” said Karen Fierro Ruiz, federal policy and advocacy manager of United We Dream. “Every single one of us would feel the impact if DACA were to end. The continued uncertainty about the future of the program is a constant reminder that we must build toward permanent stability and a pathway to citizenship, while also ensuring DACA is sustained and expanded in the interim to include those who have been cruelly locked out.”

“In the nearly 12 years since its creation, DACA has been a catalyst for positive change in the lives of recipients, like my own, helping us reach educational milestones, contribute more to the economy, and achieve financial stability as well as improve our families’ overall well-being,” said Rosa Barrientos-Ferrer, senior policy analyst at CAP. “These opportunities made possible by DACA have subsequently enriched communities across the United States through the contributions of its recipients. However, without a clear path to citizenship enacted by Congress, DACA recipients will continue to live in a state of limbo, uncertain about our futures and unable to fully contribute and thrive in the country we call home.”

Read the column: “2023 Survey of DACA Recipients Highlights Economic Advancement, Continued Uncertainty Amid Legal Limbo” by Tom K. Wong, Ignacia Rodriguez Kmec, Diana Pliego, Karen Fierro Ruiz, Silva Mathema, Trinh Q. Truong, and Rosa Barrientos-Ferrer.