More evidence that stable status is good for families and the economy

Clark Goldenrod
Apr 04, 2016

Children benefit when their parents have a stable immigration status, according to a report from the Migration Policy Institute. The findings show that DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) provisions could expand opportunity not just for parents but for their children as well.

DAPA was introduced in November 2014 as part of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Through DAPA, immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or lawful residents would be able to receive work permits and relief from deportation for three years, providing an economic boost to those immigrants and the communities they live in.

The Migration Policy Institute’s A Profile of U.S. Children with Unauthorized Immigrant Parents suggests that DAPA would also positively affect the children of these immigrants. Currently children with at least one unauthorized parent face many barriers to healthy lives and success in school, but that situation can change when parents have stable status. The report shows when parents have stable status:

  • Children are less likely to live in low-income households. Parents without legal status often work in lower-paying jobs that don’t match their skills. Living on lower incomes is associated with poor health outcomes for children and low student achievement. Three-quarters of children with unauthorized parents live in low-income households. But when looking at all immigrant families, including those with stable status, that decreases to about half of immigrant families.
  • Children are more likely to be enrolled in pre-school. Pre-school can give kids an early boost, but fewer than 40 percent of three- to four-year-old children with unauthorized parents attend pre-school. This increases to 45 percent though when including immigrant families with stable status.
  • Children are less likely to be linguistically isolated. Parents without good English skills face additional barriers when exploring options for schools and health insurance for which their children may be eligible. Over 40 percent of children with unauthorized parents are linguistically isolated. However, that percentage declines significantly when looking at all immigrant families, including those with stable status.

While the challenges facing these children paint a grim picture, 86 percent of children of unauthorized immigrants have parents who would qualify for DAPA. The Migration Policy Institute report notes, “By removing the potential threat of parental deportation and improving parents’ employment prospects…DAPA could be highly protective for both younger and older children.” It is clear that implementation of DAPA could provide broader economic opportunity not only for adults, but for their children as well.

Currently Obama’s executive actions are being held up in a lawsuit, and the United States Supreme Court announced recently that it will hear the case in the coming weeks. A decision allowing DAPA to go forward would improve the lives of unauthorized adults and children across the United States and boost national and state economies.