In 2012, President Barack Obama introduced a landmark executive action that allowed unauthorized immigrants who came to the United States as children to receive temporary deferred action from deportation and work authorization, provided they meet certain requirements. As Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) turned four this year, several studies look at how effective DACA has been at increasing economic opportunity, and the results are worth celebrating.
We take a look specifically at a new report from the Migration Policy Institute. Here are some of the highlights:
- DACA has enabled recipients to get jobs and get better jobs. Work authorization is making a difference. One survey showed over three-quarters of respondents getting a new job after enrollment in DACA, and over half getting a better paying one. Another survey showed that 66 percent “went from unemployed to employed after receiving DACA.”
- DACA supports advanced educational opportunities. One survey showed that almost one-third of respondents have gone back to school and are also better able to pay for their higher education because of the program’s work authorization component.
- Almost all DACA recipients are getting their driver’s licenses. Over 90 percent of respondents have received driver’s licenses, according to a few surveys. We’ve written about the economic benefits of a driver’s license: people with driver’s licenses are better able to access good jobs and are more flexible in the hours they can work, which can lead to higher earnings.
- DACA recipients feel more at home in the United States and want to more fully participate. A survey showed that 99 percent of respondents want to become U.S. citizens, though this is not currently an option for DACA recipients.
DACA is a common-sense way to recognize the contributions that immigrants are already making in our communities and reflect the investment that we have made in the young people who have grown up here. The initial evidence shows that recipients are benefiting from DACA, gaining education and job experience that enables them to better contribute to their communities.
In November 2014, Obama expanded the existing DACA program and created Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). However, a split ruling this summer by the U.S. Supreme Court left in place a nationwide delay of Obama’s 2014 executive actions. Next steps for the executive action to proceed likely include another argument before the Supreme Court when there is a full court of nine justices again. Judging from the great success of DACA, it would be wise to expand economic opportunity to more unauthorized immigrants through Obama’s 2014 executive action as well.