New Study Confirms That DACA Provides Concrete Benefits to Both Immigrants and Native-Born
By Patrick O’Shea, NILC content and research manager, and Ignacia Rodriguez, NILC immigration policy advocate
OCTOBER 27, 2016
This past September, the National Immigration Law Center joined forces with United We Dream, the Center for American Progress, and Professor Tom Wong of the University of California, San Diego to conduct a survey on how having Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) affects the people who’ve received it.
Last week the groups that conducted the survey released a report on the survey’s results (and the results themselves). The report provides an important glimpse into how deferred action has changed the lives not only of DACA recipients, but also of their families and communities.
Responses received from over 1,300 DACA recipients who live in different parts of the U.S. underscore that DACA is good for all of American society, both its immigrant and native-born members.
For example, the survey data show that the hourly wages of survey respondents have increased by an average of 42 percent since they received DACA. This financial boost for each individual is significant in and of itself. One result: Fully half of all DACA respondents reported that they have bought a car, and 12 percent of respondents have bought a house. These are big-ticket purchases that result in lots of revenue for states. When 60 percent of the respondents report that their increased earnings have helped them become financially independent and 61 percent say that they have contributed to their family’s finances, that is clear evidence of the very positive impact DACA is having on communities and local economies.
Beyond the economic indicators, the survey responses convey a sense that DACA recipients have an increased sense of social inclusion since receiving deferred action. Over 90 percent of respondents reported getting a driver’s license or state identification card, which contributes to public safety as well as providing the sense of belonging that comes with being able to do something as basic as identifying yourself using a state-issued document.
Despite these gains, however, executive action on immigration—including DACA—is too often framed through a partisan political lens, while its positive impact on everyday people is, for purely political reasons, ignored. This study helps to illustrate, to the degree possible, how individual lives change in practical terms because a particular executive action was taken. For that very reason, this study also sparks a series of questions and considerations for the future.
First, when opponents of DACA speak about it, do they even consider its societal and economic benefits? In addition to tracking DACA’s economic benefits, this survey identifies the various industries in which respondents are employed. The fact that 21 percent of respondents work in either the educational or health services fields bodes well, not just for the economy, but for the overall wellbeing of society. Any evaluation of DACA that truly aspires to measure its effectiveness must take these positive contributions into account.
Another important question to ask, considering how beneficial DACA has been, is how much more could have been achieved if the Obama administration’s more extensive executive actions—DAPA (deferred action for parents) and the expansion of DACA—had been allowed to take effect? There are people among us who meet every single requirement for DACA except that they were over the age of 30 when DACA was announced and therefore cannot apply. The expansion of DACA would have given them the opportunity to apply, but instead their lives are left largely in limbo.
Finally, it is incumbent upon us to look beyond the short term and ask: How much more can be achieved in the years to come? DACA has clearly been a successful program in its four years of existence. This success signals a bright future for individual DACA recipients, for their communities, and for the country as a whole if DACA continues to be available and if a more permanent form of immigration relief becomes available one day.
The survey results show that when we as a country empower people through opportunities—rather than pouring so much of our resources into restricting life’s possibilities—society becomes richer, safer, more cohesive, and more productive. This is why more inclusive policies are so important, not just for idealistic or altruistic reasons, but because in very real terms we have become a better society by providing a pathway to inclusion to these young people.