Three years since its creation, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program continues to have a positive impact on undocumented immigrant youth and their families, particularly when it comes to helping them achieve their higher education and career goals, according to a recent survey from the immigrant youth-led network United We Dream (UWD).
Created by President Barack Obama in August of 2012, DACA allows eligible undocumented immigrant youth a two-year reprieve from deportation and provides them with work permits. Requirements for program eligibility stipulate an undocumented immigrant must have obtained a high school diploma or GED, been honorably discharged from the military, or be currently enrolled in school on the date of application for deferred action.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 1.2 million undocumented youths were immediately eligible for DACA as of 2013. According to UWD, 770,000 applications for DACA have been accepted to date, and 377,767 youth with DACA have successfully renewed their status since 2014. In addition, hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrant youth are eligible for DACA or will become eligible in the coming years as they “age into” the program and meet other requirements.
For the survey, UWD collected 2,363 responses, of which 1,759 were from DACA recipients. States with large immigrant populations had the largest share of survey responses, with California having the largest response rate at 28.4 percent. Texas (10.8 percent), Illinois (6 percent), and Arizona (5 percent) followed in responses rates. A majority of respondents – 66.5 percent – were female and 32.1 percent were male.
The survey focused on all aspects of the lives of DACA recipients, including the gender imbalance among recipients (favoring females), the added barriers of discrimination recipients face due to their sexuality and identities, and the wide range of immigration statuses within their families. DACA recipients must balance the economic and societal responsibilities they may have to their families “while struggling to find economic opportunities and the tools and information they need to navigate health care, work, financial, and education institutions,” according to UWD.
Regarding higher education, the survey shows that while DACA recipients face many challenges, they continue to find a way to achieve their postsecondary goals. UWD noted that over 31 percent of DACA recipients now qualify for additional financial aid, scholarships, and education support. At least four states and numerous individual institutions since 2012 have allowed DACA students to qualify for reduced in-state tuition for public institutions or institutional scholarships.
Overall, survey respondents showed a 27.8 percent completion rate for two- and four-year completion. Most students surveyed – 29.7 percent – said they had completed some college, while 12.8 percent said they had completed a two-year degree and 15 percent said they had completed a four-year degree. Two percent said they had completed vocational schooling and three percent said they had completed a graduate or professional degree. The survey also showed that 30 percent of respondents have returned to school since receiving DACA. Over 80 percent of respondents are currently employed and over 80 percent also said they are more likely to achieve their career goals since receiving DACA.
Though the survey shows a high rate of postsecondary completion, UWD cautioned that it is “not typical for the wider DACA population,” and could be “an indication of UWD’s strength in engaging undocumented immigrant youth that are on track towards higher education.” UWD works with 53 local groups, 120,000 members, and has an online reach of nearly 2 million people, in addition to other national partnerships, according to the report.
Other findings of the survey highlight the struggle many DACA recipients face, which can serve as a barrier to educational success. These findings include:
The survey “points to the broader socioeconomic needs among undocumented young people and their families,” UWD said in the report. “DACA can serve as a model for successful investment in economic mobility only if immigrant youth are supported through workforce development and education that lead to better jobs and better wages.”
For more on DACA, check out the article Angela D. Adams, former director in the Immigration Practice Group at Lewis & Kappes, P.C., penned for NASFAA’s Student Aid Perspectives series back in Dec. 2012. Check out this Voices From the Aid Office article from Feb. 2014 for best practices when advising undocumented students.
Publication Date: 10/7/2015