Deferred action for parents would improve income and well-being of children and families

Clare Speer
Jul 25, 2016

Expanding access to a more stable legal status to eligible undocumented immigrants would benefit both the families involved and our economy overall. A recent report from the Migration Policy Institute and the Urban Institute explains how the implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) would improve the financial, psychological and overall well-being of the 10 million people across the U.S. living in households with a DAPA-eligible adult.

DAPA is part of a proposed 2014 executive action by President Barack Obama that would provide temporary work authorization and protection from deportation for parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. An estimated 3.6 million unauthorized parents are eligible for DAPA; they have 4.3 million children, 85 percent of whom are U.S. citizens. In Minnesota, an estimated 27,000 unauthorized parents are eligible for DAPA.

In addition to raising their families in the U.S., DAPA-eligible parents have been contributing to and investing in their communities for many years. Seven of every 10 of them have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years. But they still have significantly lower incomes than U.S.-born Americans and other immigrants. When controlling for other demographics, DAPA-eligible men make 16 percent less per year and DAPA-eligible women make 7 percent less than their counterparts who are lawful permanent residents. MPI estimates that if these parents gained work authorization through DAPA, median family annual incomes would increase by 10 percent, benefiting both their families and their communities and lowering the poverty rate among these families.

Enacting DAPA could provide DAPA recipients with better access to education that would open doors to higher wage jobs and further increases in their incomes. DAPA recipients’ earnings are lower in part due to their limited education and lack of fluency in English. More than half of DAPA-eligible parents have less than a high school education, and 8 in 10 are not able to communicate fluently in English, potentially limiting their earnings and their abilities to access services for their children.

Protection from deportation provides additional benefits for families and children. It would reduce the daily stress and fear associated with the parent’s status, and would enable these parents to be more present in their children’s lives. Family income also would be more stable and reliable.

The MPI report concludes that implementation of DAPA “has the potential to substantially improve the incomes, and living and well-being standards for a sizeable number of unauthorized immigrant families whose children are overwhelmingly U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.” DAPA-eligible parents and their families recently experienced a setback when the U.S. Supreme Court announced a 4-4 split decision which effectively continued a nationwide delay of DAPA. If this delay is lifted, DAPA will improve the lives of millions of immigrants and their families, as well as our local and national economies.

-Clare Speer