DACA a Year Later: Its Impact on Young Adult Immigrants

On August 15, 2013, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program celebrated its one-year anniversary.  A year ago, the Department of Homeland Security announced that certain individuals who came to the United States as children and met certain requirements may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and would then be eligible for work authorization.  Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer the removal of an individual, but it does not provide that person with lawful status.

To gain a better understanding of the DACA program’s effects, the National UnDACAmented Research Project (NURP) recently conducted a study, which surveyed respondents who averaged 23 years of age, with women as 59% of the sample.

According to the study, DACA recipients have experienced an increase in economic opportunities, such as landing a new job, opening their first bank account, and obtaining their first credit card.  Almost all of the recipients would apply for U.S. citizenship if offered the opportunity.  However, they fear that their relatives and friends could be subjected to deportation at any given moment.  Based on the study, even though DACA creates some economic opportunities for young Americans, it does not fully address the constant threat of deportation faced by those who are close to DACA recipients.

The DACA program has advanced the economic and social integration of young adult immigrants in the United States.  For example, 61% of the recipients gained a new job after receiving DACA, over 50% of them opened their first bank account, and 38% gained their first credit card.  61% of DACA recipients also obtained a driver’s license, which in turn led to even more employment and educational opportunities.  The study also indicated that 94% of the survey respondents, if they ever become eligible, would apply for citizenship.

Despite the various benefits that derive from DACA, however, almost half of its recipients continue to be concerned with the potential deportation of their friends and family members.  The study revealed that 2/3 of DACA recipients personally know someone who has been deported, 14% of them personally experienced the deportation of a parent or sibling, and nearly 1/3 of them report that other family members have been deported.  As a result, these young adults have likely suffered from stress and family hardships.

There are many benefits to first becoming a DACA recipient prior to the passage of any immigration reform, as mentioned in one of our articles last month.  However, comprehensive immigration reform, which ultimately leads to a path to citizenship, could also be beneficial for the relatives of most DACA recipients.

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