2021 Survey of DACA Recipients Underscores the Importance of a Pathway to Citizenship

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For the complete survey outcomes, please go to the hyperlink beneath.

Since former President Barack Obama first introduced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on June 15, 2012, it has supplied short-term aid from deportation in addition to work authorization to greater than 830,000 undocumented young people throughout the nation.

From September 8 to November 5, 2021, the Heart for American Progress, United We Dream, and the Nationwide Immigration Legislation Heart—led by Tom Ok. Wong of the U.S. Immigration Coverage Heart on the College of California, San Diego and CAP—fielded a nationwide survey to additional analyze the experiences of DACA recipients. 2021 marked the seventh consecutive yr that these organizations have surveyed DACA recipients. For this most up-to-date research, the authors surveyed 1,021 DACA recipients throughout 40 states in addition to Washington, D.C.

This analysis, as with previous surveys, illustrates the numerous contributions that DACA recipients are making to the U.S. financial system and their communities, with roughly 9 out of each 10 respondents at present enrolled in class or employed. Nonetheless, this yr’s responses additionally present that amid the backdrop of continued uncertainty for DACA recipients and the continued COVID-19 pandemic, the good points made attainable by DACA are weak.

Even with authorized challenges threatening its future, DACA stays a essential lifeline for a whole lot of hundreds of individuals. The 2021 survey outcomes make it abundantly clear why Congress should take rapid motion to completely defend DACA recipients—in addition to individuals who have been unable to entry this system as a result of authorized challenges—by offering them a pathway to citizenship.

DACA’s influence on employment

Momentary work authorization has been instrumental in serving to DACA recipients take part extra totally within the labor drive. The information present that roughly 8 out of each 10 respondents—79.8 p.c—are at present employed. Amongst respondents ages 25 and older, the employment fee jumps to 86.4 p.c. The 2020 survey confirmed that 88.5 p.c of all respondents had been employed and that 89.1 p.c of all respondents ages 25 and older had been employed.

After receiving DACA:

  • 43.8 p.c of respondents moved to a job with higher pay.
  • 35.4 p.c of respondents moved to a job with higher working situations.
  • 34.3 p.c of respondents moved to a job that “higher matches [their] training and coaching.”
  • 37 p.c of respondents moved to a job that “higher matches [their] long-term profession targets.”
  • 43.3 p.c of respondents moved to a job with medical health insurance or different advantages.
  • 12.9 p.c of respondents obtained skilled licenses after receiving DACA, a determine that will increase to fifteen.7 p.c for respondents ages 25 and older.

These percentages are decrease than these reported in earlier surveys, and there are a number of possible causes that is the case. Main amongst these are the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing financial downturn. Like all People, DACA recipients are grappling with the devastating well being and financial impacts of the pandemic practically two years after the primary recognized U.S. instances. For instance, 22.5 p.c of respondents who’re at present employed reported having both their work hours or their pay decreased as a result of pandemic. Amongst respondents who usually are not at present employed or in class, 35.8 p.c reported that they misplaced their job as a result of pandemic.

The financial results ensuing from the COVID-19 pandemic might overshadow a few of the financial good points and stability which have been hallmarks of DACA. For instance, isolating the survey responses of those that misplaced their jobs in the course of the pandemic exhibits that these people are:

  • 12.7 p.c much less prone to report incomes extra money and turning into financially impartial post-DACA.
  • 11.8 p.c much less prone to report incomes extra money and serving to their households financially post-DACA.
  • 10.5 p.c much less prone to report incomes extra money and serving to handle an aged guardian or relative post-DACA.
  • 12.7 p.c much less prone to report incomes extra money that helped them pay for medical bills post-DACA.
  • 11.1 p.c much less prone to report transferring into higher or improved housing post-DACA.

The pandemic, nevertheless, seems to be negatively affecting youthful DACA recipients extra acutely than older DACA recipients—mirroring the trend in the US extra broadly.

Young people have been among the many hardest-hit section of employees in the course of the pandemic—going through acute unemployment, pay cuts, and commuting and housing stressors. This demographic consists of many youthful DACA recipients, who’re going through their first working years in a labor market indelibly formed by COVID-19. However all DACA recipients face the problem that DACA not solely confers nonpermanent standing but in addition will be ended by the Division of Homeland Safety or court docket order. This highlights the necessity for everlasting standing and citizenship in an effort to enhance recipients’ financial prospects additional.

As soon as once more, this yr’s survey outcomes emphasize the significance of making certain that undocumented immigrants have entry to everlasting protections.

The financial advantages of everlasting standing and citizenship

Economists have long researched the financial advantages that include everlasting authorized standing and citizenship. Research of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) estimated that the final main federal effort to grant authorized standing and citizenship to undocumented immigrants elevated their wages by 20 p.c. Similar research taking a look at previous iterations of the Dream Act concludes that the wage bump can be someplace between 20 p.c and 25 p.c for these eligible. However these private good points in wages and productiveness, which replicate the elevated funding in employees and human capital attainable beneath the everlasting nature of the protections, ripple beyond the individual. They result in elevated productiveness extra extensively, an elevated gross home product, and job creation—results that reverberate all through the U.S. financial system as a complete.

DACA’s influence on earnings

The 2021 survey, in addition to information from years prior, makes clear that DACA has a optimistic and vital impact on wages. Respondents reported that their common hourly wage had greater than doubled since they obtained DACA, from $10.94 to $22.90—a achieve of 109.3 p.c. These increased wages usually are not simply essential for recipients and their households but in addition for tax revenues and financial progress on the native, state, and federal ranges. The information additionally present that respondents’ common annual earnings come out to roughly $52,700, whereas their median annual earnings complete $47,000.

As well as, DACA has led to larger monetary independence and safety for recipients and their households:

  • 62.6 p.c of respondents reported that their elevated earnings have “helped [them] grow to be financially impartial.”
  • 61.1 p.c reported that their elevated earnings have “helped [their] household financially.”
  • 24.9 p.c reported that their elevated earnings have “helped [them] handle an aged guardian or relative.”

Amongst respondents at present in class, 52.3 p.c reported that their elevated earnings helped pay for tuition, and amongst respondents with kids, 37.8 p.c reported that their elevated earnings helped pay for little one care bills.

DACA’s influence on the financial system

The monetary independence DACA facilitates has enabled recipients to make giant investments that bolster the financial system. For instance, 50.6 p.c of respondents reported shopping for their first automotive after receiving DACA—a purchase order that contributes to state income, as most states accumulate a proportion of the acquisition worth in gross sales tax, together with further registration and title fees. This state income comes along with the safety benefits of licensing and insuring extra drivers.

The information additionally present that 16.5 p.c of respondents bought their first residence after receiving DACA. Amongst respondents ages 25 and older, this determine will increase to 21.4 p.c. Charges of automotive and residential possession have continued to extend throughout the seven years of DACA surveys. The broader optimistic financial results of residence purchases embrace elevated job creation and the infusion of new spending in native communities.

These results come on prime of the mixed $9.4 billion in federal, state, and native taxes paid yearly by households with DACA recipients.

However the pandemic has affected wider economic indicators, corresponding to housing funds, for a lot of People, DACA recipients amongst them. Amongst owners, 22.9 p.c of respondents reported difficulties paying their mortgage in the course of the pandemic. Amongst nonhomeowners, 37.2 p.c reported difficulties paying their hire, and eight.7 p.c reported being threatened with eviction.

DACA’s influence on training

Total, 31.8 p.c of respondents are at present in class, a big majority—68 p.c—of whom are pursuing a bachelor’s diploma or increased. With regards to instructional attainment, 44.7 p.c of respondents at present not in class reported already having a bachelor’s diploma or increased. Importantly, amongst those that are at present in class, a sturdy 60.3 p.c stated that due to DACA, “[They] pursued instructional alternatives that [they] beforehand couldn’t.”

These training outcomes replicate the truth that DACA is an almost decade-old program whose eligibility standards have by no means been up to date. Thus, these eligible for protections at the moment are from ages 15 to 40, with 60 percent of recipients ages 26 or older. Younger individuals turning 15 are now not in a position to request first-time DACA protections upon reaching age eligibility.

The uncertainty of life with DACA

Although DACA grants recipients short-term safety from deportation and makes recipients eligible for two-year work authorizations, recipients nonetheless face vital uncertainty in the US given the continued uncertainty that DACA faces in the courts. Till undocumented communities can entry a pathway to citizenship, this uncertainty will proceed. To replicate this, the 2021 survey requested recipients a sequence of questions on their fears of deportation and being separated from their households.

DACA recipients may face widespread hurt in the event that they misplaced their standing, together with a excessive danger of potential detention, deportation, and household separation. An amazing 91.6 p.c of respondents reported issues about both their or their household’s bodily security, capacity to entry well being care or training, meals safety, or danger of homelessness in the event that they had been deported to their respective international locations of delivery:

  • 77.9 p.c reported, “In my nation of delivery, I might be involved concerning the bodily security of myself and my household.”
  • 77.8 p.c reported, “In my nation of delivery, I might be involved concerning the high quality of healthcare for myself and my household.”
  • 71.4 p.c reported, “In my nation of delivery, I might be involved concerning the high quality of training for myself and my household.”
  • 60.1 p.c reported, “In my nation of delivery, I might be involved about meals insecurity for myself and my household.”
  • 40.2 p.c reported, “In my nation of delivery, I might be involved about homelessness for myself and my household.”

Strikingly, the typical age of arrival to the US amongst respondents is simply 6.3 years previous, and virtually three-fourths—73 p.c—reported not having any rapid relations who nonetheless dwell of their respective delivery international locations. Deporting DACA recipients, due to this fact, would imply sending them to international locations with which they’re deeply unfamiliar. The survey additionally makes clear that deportation would jeopardize respondents’ bodily security, well-being, and livelihood.

The uncertainty surrounding the way forward for DACA itself additionally continues to weigh closely on recipients’ minds. For instance, 40.1 p.c of respondents reported that at the least as soon as a day, they consider both being detained in an immigration detention facility or deported from the US. A good larger proportion, 48.6 p.c, reported that they assume at the least as soon as a day a few member of the family being detained or deported.

Concern of household separation is especially sturdy amongst DACA recipients who’re dad and mom. Amongst these with kids, 68.8 p.c reported that they assume at the least as soon as a day about “being separated from [their] kids due to deportation,” whereas 68.3 p.c reported pondering at the least as soon as a day about “not having the ability to see [their] kids develop up due to deportation.”

DACA continues to be mired in authorized battles that threaten its future, and it’s evident that deportation and household separation proceed to be on the prime of DACA recipients’ minds.


For years, DACA has protected a whole lot of hundreds of undocumented immigrants from deportation and allowed them to pursue their goals in the US. However DACA just isn’t a everlasting resolution: Undocumented individuals want a path to citizenship to be totally safe of their properties and lives. This yr’s survey outcomes reveal that DACA is the ground, not the ceiling, of what immigrant youth want and deserve. It’s lengthy overdue for Congress to behave to make sure that immigrant youth—and all undocumented immigrants—can entry essential protections.


The questionnaire was administered to a web-based panel of DACA recipients recruited by the associate organizations. A number of steps had been taken to account for the recognized sources of bias that consequence from such on-line panels. To forestall poll stuffing—one particular person submitting a number of responses—the authors didn’t provide an incentive to respondents for taking the questionnaire and used a state-of-the-art on-line survey platform that doesn’t permit one IP tackle to submit a number of responses. To forestall spoiled ballots—that means individuals responding who usually are not undocumented—the authors used a novel validation take a look at for undocumented standing. A number of questions had been requested about every respondent’s migratory and DACA software historical past. These questions had been requested at totally different components of the questionnaire. When repeated, the questions had been posed utilizing totally different wording. If there was settlement within the solutions such that there was consistency concerning the respondent’s migratory historical past, the respondent was saved within the ensuing pool of respondents. If not, the respondent was excluded. As a way to recruit respondents outdoors the networks of the associate organizations, Fb advertisements had been additionally used. As a result of there is no such thing as a telephone e book of undocumented immigrants, and given the character of on-line opt-in surveys, it’s not attainable to assemble a sound margin of error.

The authors wish to thank all those that took the time to fill out this survey.

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2021 Survey of DACA Recipients Underscores the Importance of a Pathway to Citizenship

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