VOX: 9 Facts That Explain DACA, The Immigration Program Trump Is Threatening to End

VOX: 9 Facts That Explain DACA, The Immigration Program Trump Is Threatening to End

  • Share this Article

This article originally appeared in Vox

By Dara Lind

How DACA works, who it protects, and what could happen to immigrants if Trump shuts it down.

The most consequential decision President Donald Trump is going to make on immigration in his first year in office isn’t about the wall, or who’s going to pay for it, or anything else he talked about incessantly on the campaign trail.

It’s about the fate of a program he didn’t mention outright, that many people didn’t know about and even fewer understood: the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has protected nearly 800,000 young adult unauthorized immigrants from deportation and allowed them to work legally since 2012.

The immigrants protected through DACA grew up in the US; people might not assume they are unauthorized immigrants, and they might not have even known it themselves until they were teenagers. The program was supposed to give them a chance to build a life here.

Now, DACA could be on the chopping block. Trump is under pressure to make a decision about its future before September 5, the day a group of Republican state officials are set to sue over its constitutionality.

The prospect of DACA’s demise is throwing the program into sharp relief: calling attention to the “DREAMers” who’ve been able to benefit from it, and the ways in which their lives have been changed over the past five years.

Here’s a guide to the program, the people it protects, and what could happen in the near future.

1) DACA is a program to protect DREAMers — unauthorized immigrants brought to the US as children

In the 1990s to mid-2000s, the US started building up enforcement on the US/Mexico border, with a huge unintended consequence: Many unauthorized immigrants avoided repeated risky border crossings by settling in the US with their families. (Previously, unauthorized immigrants had mostly been working-age men who crossed back and forth to the US for work while their families stayed in their home countries.)

Around the same time, changes to US law made it nearly impossible for an immigrant to get legal status if they’d lived in the country illegally. So the children who crossed illegally into the US with their parents were growing up in a country where they could never become legal residents or citizens.

These children became known as DREAMers, after the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation meant to give them a path to citizenship first introduced in 2001. But with that legislation stalled in Congress, President Barack Obama in 2012 created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. While it didn’t give them a path to citizenship, DACA offered DREAMers a temporary grant of protection from deportation and a permit to work legally in the US. The protections last two years, after which immigrants can apply to renew for them.

Not all DREAMers, though, became DACA recipients. To apply for DACA, immigrants have to have come to the US before 2007, and have been 15 or younger when they arrived and younger than 31 when DACA was created in June 2012. They had to have a nearly spotless criminal record and be enrolled in high school or have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Perhaps most importantly, they have to apply. It’s estimated that about 1.3 million people would be eligible for DACA, but right now, about 800,000 people actually have it.

2) DACA recipients are part of a generation of immigrants raised alongside US citizens

Not all DREAMers are from Mexico or Central America, and plenty of them came in other ways: their parents had legal work visas but the children did not, or their legal visas expired, or they tried to seek asylum and failed.

What unites DREAMers, more than how they came to the US, is the experience they’ve had here.

Technically, immigrants are eligible for DACA if they came to the US under the age of 16. But in practice, the majority were much younger when they immigrated. In the most recent survey of 3,063 DACA recipients, conducted in August 2017 by Tom Wong of UC San Diego (for the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress and other immigrant advocacy groups), the average age that respondents said they’d arrived in the US was 6-and-a-half years old.

When defenders of DACA say that the immigrants who benefit from it are “American in all but paperwork,” or that the US is “the only country they remember,” this is what they’re talking about. Demographers call them the “1.5 generation”: unauthorized immigrants who arrived as children are technically first-generation residents of the US, because they were born in another country. But their life experiences have more in common with the US-born children of immigrants (known as the second generation).

Many DREAMers say they didn’t even know they were unauthorized immigrants until they were teenagers — often when they discovered they couldn’t join their peers in getting a driver’s license or filling out financial aid forms for college, because they didn’t have Social Security numbers.

That’s given rise to the talking point, often used by politicians, that DREAMers “were brought to the United States through no fault of their own,” or that they “are being punished for the sins of their parents.” Those talking points seek to draw a line: Adults who deliberately chose to come to (or stay in) the US without legal status should take responsibility for their actions, but children shouldn’t be blamed for being brought along.

But from the perspective of DREAMers themselves, their parents came to the US to give their children a better life, just as any other immigrant parent does — and they resist efforts to make themselves look better by making their parents look like the real villains.

3) Politicians have been talking about what to do with the DREAMers for more than 15 years

The political debate over what to do about young unauthorized immigrants is, at this point, old enough that it could apply for DACA itself. The first proposal to allow people who’d come to the US as children to apply for legal immigrant status and eventually become citizens, was introduced in 2001 by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA). It was called the DREAM Act — Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors— a name that versions of the bill have kept ever since.

For a while, the DREAM Act was seen as a moderate alternative to legalizing all 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US. But with both Democrats and Republicans divided on immigration during the George W. Bush era — and with Republicans moving to the right on immigration under Barack Obama — it was never quite popular enough to get the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster in the Senate. In the most recent attempt, in December 2010, the bill passed the House and got a majority of votes in the Senate, but failed to clear 60.

By that time, the risk that a DREAMer would get deported was much higher than it was in 2001, as the federal government had ramped up deportations to 400,000 a year. Because DREAMers were politically sympathetic — majorities of Americans wanted them to stay in the US — and well-integrated into their communities, they were sometimes able to raise public alarm when they were slotted for deportation — sometimes getting the federal government to back down.

But sticking around and hoping not to get deported wasn’t a real solution.

4) DREAMers aren’t all valedictorians — but they are integrated into the US

One of the reasons that legalizing or protecting DREAMers has been politically popular — even when legalizing other unauthorized immigrants, including their parents, has not — is the stereotype of DREAMers as high school valedictorians and high-achieving college students. This stereotype has been pushed by politicians on both sides of the aisle since the early days of the DREAM Act, and it’s the angle that much of the media coverage took in calling attention to the problem throughout the 2000s.

There certainly are high-achieving DREAMers. But as a whole, they’re more diverse and less exceptional than the stereotype suggests — and the cliché of the DREAMer valedictorian can obscure just how much harder it is to succeed without legal status in the US.

According to 2014 estimates from the Migration Policy Institute, nearly 400,000 young immigrants who would otherwise qualify for DACA don’t meet the educational requirements for it: They dropped out of high school and don’t have a GED. Even immigrants who are DACA-eligible often don’t go beyond high school; only 57,000 of them, or about 5 percent, have bachelor’s degrees, with another 20 percent currently enrolled in college.

Given that unauthorized immigrants are likely to grow up in lower-income households and can’t get federal financial aid, including federal student loans, this isn’t necessarily surprising. But it’s also true that some immigrants have been dissuaded from pursuing their educational and career goals by their unauthorized status.

Sociologist Roberto Gonzales of Harvard calls this the “transition to illegality”: Once teenagers find out the truth about being unauthorized, they have to adjust their expectations of what they can achieve in life to match their new reality. Many respond by losing motivation to succeed in school or pursue high-status careers, because they can’t imagine how it would be possible for an “illegal immigrant” to succeed.

The “transition to illegality” usually doesn’t lead to people trying to leave the US — it just leads to them seeing their own lives as more like their parents’. They’re fluent in English, and are often close to American citizens: According to Wong’s survey, 25 percent of DACA recipients have at least one US-born child; 73 percent have at least one US citizen as a member of their immediate family (child, spouse or sibling). They’re still integrated into America. They just haven’t seen themselves as Americans.

5) President Obama gave DREAMers a way to protect themselves, temporarily, from deportation

After the 2010 failure of the DREAM Act, President Obama claimed that the immigrants who would be eligible for legalization under it weren’t being deported anyway, since his administration was targeting “high-priority” immigrants (like those with criminal records) rather than “low-priority” immigrants who’d lived quietly in the US for years. But federal immigration agents were still deporting “low-priority” immigrants, including DREAMers.

So in summer 2012, rather than relying on Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to protect immigrants by declining to deport them, the administration decided to allow DREAMers to apply for protection from deportation themselves.

In June 2012, President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It allows young unauthorized immigrants who meet certain criteria to apply for a commitment from the federal government for “deferred action” — that is, a commitment not to initiate deportation proceedings — for two years. Successful applicants also receive a work permit.

DACA wasn’t a legalization program — technically speaking, immigrants who are “DACAmented” are lawfully present in the US, but don’t have legal status.

It’s an important policy distinction. Having DACA doesn’t give immigrants any path to becoming legal permanent residents or citizens. Still, being lawfully present means that they’re able to get driver’s licenses even in states that don’t usually allow unauthorized immigrants to drive legally.

But it’s also a reflection of the line between the powers the executive branch has on immigration and the powers reserved for Congress. The executive branch can’t legalize anybody. But it’s fairly common for presidents to allow certain groups of immigrants to apply for temporary relief and grant those requests on a case-by-case basis. (In 2005, for example, the George W. Bush administration allowed foreign students affected by Hurricane Katrina to apply for deferred action; in 2009, the Obama administration granted deferred action to widows and widowers of US citizens and their children.)

When DACA was created, Democrats still hoped that Congress would pass a broad immigration reform bill in the near future. And in 2013, the Senate passed just such a bill. But the House never acted, and in the years since then, the common ground between Democrats and Republicans has gotten ever smaller. So DACA has gone from a short-term placeholder until a more permanent agreement can be made to the only hope, for now, for the nearly 800,000 people who have it.

6) DACA has improved upward mobility for the people who have it, but its benefits can’t really be quantified

All available research suggests that immigrants who’ve received DACA protections have been able to go further, educationally and economically, than other unauthorized immigrants — or than they would have without DACA.

Wong’s August 2017 survey found that annual earnings had increased 80 percent under DACA — from an average of $20,000 to an average of $36,000. (This includes immigrants who are working part time, or who are working while enrolled in school, as well as those with full-time jobs.) Sixty-five percent had bought their first car; 16 percent had become homeowners.

Five percent of DACA recipients had started their own businesses. Sixty percent of DACA recipients above the age of 25 — in other words, those most likely to have been in the workforce before DACA was rolled out in 2012 — said that with DACA they’d been able to find jobs that better suited the education and training they already had; 61 percent said they’d been able to find jobs that suited the careers they wanted to have.

DACA recipients were already primed to do better than many unauthorized immigrants because of their fluency in English and education in the US: in 2014, a Migration Policy Institute analysis found that the population eligible for DACA (including both those who had applied and those who hadn’t) was less likely to be in professional or managerial jobs than US citizens, but much more likely to be working white-collar jobs than other unauthorized immigrants.

But having DACA allowed immigrants to capitalize on those gains in an important way. A 2014 study conducted by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UCLA found that 84 percent of immigrants with DACA were employed compared to 68 percent of their unauthorized peers, and that DACA recipients earned 20 percent more than similar immigrants without DACA.

There might be more to the benefits of DACA than simply the fact that recipients can work legally. If the “transition to illegality” forced many immigrants to narrow their ambitions, there’s evidence DACA has opened them back up. Its respondents aren’t just finding jobs, but careers: in a 2015 survey, 80 percent of respondents agreed that they feel more likely to achieve their career goals now that they have DACA. They’re buying homes in the US with the intent to stay.

In a survey conducted a year after DACA, in 2013, most DACA recipients felt safer after getting protected from deportation: 66 percent said they were no longer afraid, and 64 percent said they felt more like they belonged in the US. As the program continued, those feelings only grew. In 2015, 78 percent of DACA recipients said they were no longer afraid. And 72 percent said they felt like they belonged in America.

That feeling of security allowed them to plan their futures. It freed them from some of the mental health damage that constant deportation stress can cause. And it allowed them to go from being unable to imagine themselves anywhere but America to seeing themselves as Americans.

7) Trump, or the courts, might put DACA to an end — but the details are still unclear

If Trump doesn’t act to end DACA before September 5, a group of state attorneys general, led by Texas, are threatening to sue to do it for him. They want to ask a federal judge who already ruled one Obama-era deferred action program unconstitutional (the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program, or DAPA, which was stopped before going into effect in 2015) to do the same for DACA.

The lawsuit would probably result in DACA getting put on hold at some point — though it wouldn’t be at all clear when, or how.

The Trump administration is reportedly trying to delay the potential lawsuit, to give the president more time to decide what to do with DACA. Because in addition to the question of whether or not to fight the states in court to protect DACA, there’s the question of how Trump would end the program.

And to DREAMers, the details matter a ton.

It’s theoretically possible that Trump could not just tell the federal government not to approve any new applications for DACA protection, but could revoke the protections and work permits for the 800,000 people who already have them — effective immediately. This would cause utter chaos. Luckily, it seems unlikely.

It appears more plausible that President Trump will declare that people can keep their current work permits, but no new DACA applications will be approved — shutting out people who are currently 15 or younger from protections, as well as the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who theoretically qualify but never applied. (Immigrants from Asian countries, for example, were relatively less likely to apply for DACA, either because they were worried about the government getting their information or because they simply didn’t know what the program was.)

That leaves the question of what happens when DACA recipients’ current two-year work permits expire — as they will, if unable to renew DACA, in the coming weeks and months.

Trump could allow DACA recipients to renew one more time — giving Congress a couple of years to come up with a more permanent solution, or simply kicking the can down the road. He could set a deadline after which no new DACA renewals will be granted, meaning that anyone whose permit expires after that date will simply become unauthorized again.

In order to satisfy the demands of the Republican state officials threatening to sue, though, Trump would have to declare that the government will stop renewing DACA applications, period. That would have the effect of ending the program over the next two years — with tens of thousands of people losing their DACA protections every month.

In order to satisfy the demands of the Republican state officials threatening to sue, though, Trump would have to declare that the government will stop renewing DACA applications, period. That would have the effect of ending the program over the next two years — with tens of thousands of people losing their DACA protections every month.

8) Losing DACA wouldn’t automatically mean deportation. But it could be worse than not having it at all.

What losing DACA would mean varies from immigrant to immigrant. Immigrants working full-time jobs would have to leave them to comply with the law, or continue working at legal risk to themselves and their employers. Immigrants in school would be able to remain enrolled, in nearly all cases, but some might have trouble retaining their financial aid for the rest of their educations (in addition to not knowing what jobs they could get in the US with the degrees they’re working to obtain).

And then there’s the threat of deportation.

Because DACA recipients gave extensive personal information to the government when they applied, many of them could easily be tracked down, arrested, and placed in deportation proceedings once their DACA expired — if the Trump administration chose to do so. Under Obama, DACA information was protected from ICE agents by privacy regulations, but an executive order signed by President Trump in January relaxed those restrictions.

In theory, Trump administration officials claim they’re targeting immigrants with criminal records for deportation. In practice, it appears deportation efforts are going after the lowest-hanging fruit — the immigrants they can most easily track down and pick up. If that’s true, it could put DACA recipients at substantial risk.

There are too many DACA recipients for the administration to arrest all of them, much less deport them — and because DACA recipients haven’t been previously deported or ordered deported, it wouldn’t be possible to without putting them through a yearslong immigration court process. But the risk of deportation could be, if anything, higher after DACA than it was beforehand.

In the meantime, immigrants stripped of DACA protections could attempt to continue to live the lives they’d been living with DACA: working, driving around, being “undocumented and unafraid.” If they did that, they’d put themselves in legal jeopardy multiple times a day, and increase the risk of their deportation.

They could try to prepare to leave the country: selling the car or house they purchased while protected by DACA, trying to find a country that would welcome the skills they’d no longer have the opportunity to use in the US. But for a cohort of people who grew up in the US, and who have spent the last half-decade living here with some legitimacy, that wouldn’t be an easy step to take — if it were, more of them would have taken it rather than live under the uncertainty of DACA to begin with.

Or they could try to return to the shadows — taking the sort of jobs they had before DACA. They could try to transition back to illegality.

9) The threat of losing DACA creates its own kind of uncertainty
For the moment, the decision of “what to do if DACA ends” is still hypothetical. It’s possible that the Trump administration won’t make a decision before September 5 — or even that it will be able to persuade the states to extend their deadline for a lawsuit.

But that doesn’t remove the threat to DACA recipients. It just leaves them in limbo about their futures for longer.

Since Trump was elected, DACA recipients have been worried about what’s going to happen to them. Many were concerned that he was going to strip them of their protections and work permits on his first day in office. They dealt with several rounds of unfounded rumors in the early weeks of his administration that he was about to sign an executive order that would prevent them from renewing DACA.

In the meantime, they’ve had to make the same decisions that any other person in their late teens, 20s, or early 30s has to make from November of one year to August of another: whether to change jobs or even careers, whether they should go back to school or take a break from school to work, whether to move to a new town or stay at home to save money and help family.

They’ve done all this with the knowledge that they could be making plans for a future that could evaporate with the stroke of a pen.

Simply delaying a decision about whether to end DACA doesn’t remove that cloud from over their heads. Only the decision itself — either knowing for sure that their days with DACA are numbered, or knowing that the administration will keep the program and fight for them in court — will do that.

Don’t forget to sign our petition to tell the Trump Administration to Defend DACA and stand with DREAMers.

PRESS RELEASE: Statement by former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Reports President Donald Trump Will Announce a Halt to DACA This Week

PRESS RELEASE: Statement by former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Reports President Donald Trump Will Announce a Halt to DACA This Week

  • Share this Article

For Immediate Release
August 31, 2017


Statement by Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Reports President Donald Trump Will Announce a Halt to DACA This Week

Los Angeles – Antonio Villaraigosa, the former Speaker of the California State Assembly and the 41st Mayor of Los Angeles, issued the following statement regarding news reports that President Donald Trump plans to announce a halt to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program this week.

Said Antonio Villaraigosa:

“Last week, President Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a bigot who was found in criminal contempt of court, and this week news reports indicate he plans to end a program that benefits primarily Latinos brought here at a young age. If he ends DACA – and thus denies the dreams and the contributions of these hard-working and highly productive young Americans – there can only be one reason: raw bigotry.

“These young Americans, brought here by their parents as children, have known no other country. They are as American as any of us. They have followed our laws, worked hard in school, paid taxes and many have served in our military to defend our freedom and values.  They ARE Americans – plain and simple.

“Removing them is an attack on our most cherished values as a nation. And make no mistake, it will also undermine our economy.

“These hardworking young people contribute billions each year to our economy. Forcibly removing them will not create jobs, it will destroy jobs. That fact was proven by a study released by the Center for American Progress, which was conducted by UC San Diego associate professor Tom K. Wong.

“We must speak together with one voice to challenge this bigotry – and stand together to defend our fellow Americans now facing the threat of deportation.

“Once again, California will help lead this charge, but this is the fight of every American who shares our nation’s cherished values of tolerance, freedom and equal opportunity.”


Join us and stand against Donald Trump’s plan to end the DACA program. Click here to sign our petition and defend DACA. 

PRESS RELEASE: Congresswoman Karen Bass Endorses Antonio Villaraigosa for Governor

PRESS RELEASE: Congresswoman Karen Bass Endorses Antonio Villaraigosa for Governor

  • Share this Article

August 29, 2017

Rep. Bass is Third Former Assembly Speaker to Endorse Villaraigosa for Governor

Los Angeles – Today, former California Assembly Speaker, Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA-37) endorses Antonio Villaraigosa for Governor. She joins two other former Assembly Speakers Fabian Núñez and John Pérez in backing the former Los Angeles Mayor to succeed Governor Jerry Brown who is termed-out of office.

“I’ve known Antonio for over 40 years and throughout his entire career, Antonio Villaraigosa’s passion and mission has been to fight for equal opportunity and be a voice for social and economic justice,” said Rep. Bass. “As a freshman legislator, to his work as our seasoned Speaker of the California Assembly and Mayor of Los Angeles, he fought to improve lives because he believes that everyone should have access to the American Dream.”

“As our next Governor, Antonio will work to lift up our state so that our communities have an equal opportunity at success,” added Rep. Bass. “He’ll work towards a California where everyone is heard and every single one of us has an equal chance to learn and earn. It is with great pride that I endorse Antonio Villaraigosa to be the next Governor of California!”

The endorsement was announced at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College where the two leaders underscored the importance of strengthening vocational education training, which provides good paying job opportunities. 

“I’m honored to have the support of my good friend Congresswoman Karen Bass,” said Villaraigosa. “Education has always been a cornerstone of my agenda. As Los Angeles Mayor, I worked to double the number of high-performing schools, and graduation rates went from 44 percent to 72 percent. It was hard work, and there is much work left to do to make sure Californians have access to training and the skills to succeed in today’s economy.”

At the press conference, Villaraigosa also urged President Donald Trump to not halt the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was reportedly at risk according to news reports.

“Children who were brought to the United States at a young age, who have followed our laws and have served in our military to defend our freedom and values are Americans – plain and simple,” said Villaraigosa. “Studies show that DACA recipients make positive and significant contributions to our economy and nation – they are entrepreneurs, employed at Fortune 500 companies and serve in our military. They love this country as much as any American because they are American. We cannot turn our backs on them.”


WEEKLY UPDATE: Breaking News

WEEKLY UPDATE: Breaking News

  • Share this Article

Congresswoman Karen Bass completed her press conference in Los Angeles announcing her strong support for Antonio’s campaign for California Governor. Congresswoman Bass is now the third former Speaker of the California State Assembly to endorse Antonio, joining former Speakers John Pérez and Fabian Núñez.

“I’ve known Antonio for over 40 years and throughout his entire career, his passion and mission has been to fight for equal opportunity and be a voice for social and economic justice,” said Rep. Bass. “As a freshman legislator, to his work as our seasoned Speaker of the California Assembly and Mayor of Los Angeles, he fought to improve lives because he believes that everyone should have access to the American Dream.”

“As our next Governor, Antonio will work to lift up our state so that our communities have an equal opportunity at success,” added Rep. Bass. “He’ll work towards a California where everyone is heard and every single one of us has an equal chance to learn and earn. It is with great pride that I endorse Antonio Villaraigosa to be the next Governor of California!”

“I’m honored to have the support of my good friend Congresswoman Karen Bass,” said Villaraigosa. “Education has always been a cornerstone of my agenda. As Los Angeles Mayor, I worked to double the number of high-performing schools, and graduation rates went from 44 percent to 72 percent. It was hard work, and there is much work left to do to make sure Californians have access to the training and skills needed to succeed in today’s economy.”

Congresswoman Bass joins a coalition of endorsers and supporters from every corner of California. Add your name to our growing list of endorsers today!

antonio villaraigosa for governor of california antonio for california congresswoman karen bass endorses antonio villaraigosa for governor of california lost angeles technical college in los angeles

Keeping the DACA Dream Alive

President Trump has long been threatening to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This decision will not only decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, but will directly impact our state economy. Reports from Washington indicate that a decision could come as early as this week, just as a new report released by an Associate Professor at the UC San Diego shows the significant economic impact of DACA. Reversing DACA could cost California more than $11.6 billion in annual GDP losses. This reiterates what Antonio has often said – attacking immigrants is an assault on our values and our economy.

Stand with us and sign our petition to demand the Trump administration continue the DACA program: Defend DACA Now!

On the Campaign Trail

Last weekend, Antonio attended the California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting in Anaheim where he met with countless state leaders, organizers and supporters. Making sure California elects a governor who knows that true equality starts with economic equality will help shape our own Democratic Party and the national Democratic Party in the years to come. Antonio spent the weekend spreading the word: California needs to come together to create millions of new high-wage jobs, not just in a few small pockets on the coast, but everywhere.

In the News

In case you missed it, Antonio was featured in The New York Times. Read the California Today interview for yourself.

In the interview, Antonio said, “I’ve been talking about the need to focus on an economy that’’ working for more people and building more middle-class jobs. We need to restore the luster of the California dream and make sure that that dream is for everyone, not based on your zip code or what part of the state you live in.”

Get the latest from the campaign trail by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn!

BREAKING NEWS – DACA Created A Stronger America

BREAKING NEWS – DACA Created A Stronger America

  • Share this Article

This article was originally published by the Center for American Progress. You can download the full study here

Posted on 

DACA Recipients’ Economic and Educational Gains Continue to Grow

Since it was first announced on June 15, 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals(DACA) policy has provided temporary relief from deportation as well as work authorization to approximately 800,000 undocumented young people across the country. As research has consistently shown, DACA has not only improved the lives of undocumented young people and their families but has also positively affected the economy more generally, which benefits all Americans.

From August 1, 2017 to August 20, 2017, Tom K. Wong of the University of California, San Diego; United We Dream (UWD); the National Immigration Law Center (NILC); and the Center for American Progress fielded a national survey to further analyze the economic, employment, educational, and societal experiences of DACA recipients. This is the largest study to date of DACA recipients with a sample size of 3,063 respondents in 46 states as well as the District of Columbia.

The data illustrate that DACA recipients continue to make positive and significant contributions to the economy, including earning higher wages, which translates into higher tax revenue and economic growth that benefits all Americans. In addition, DACA recipients are buying cars, purchasing their first homes, and even creating new businesses. The survey’s results also show that at least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies employ DACA recipients. Moreover, 97 percent of respondents are currently employed or enrolled in school.

DACA’s impact on employment

Work authorization is critical in helping DACA recipients participate more fully in the labor force. The data show that 91 percent of respondents are currently employed. Among respondents age 25 and older, employment jumps to 93 percent.

After receiving DACA, 69 percent of respondents reported moving to a job with better pay; 54 percent moved to a job that “better fits my education and training”; 54 percent moved to a job that “better fits my long-term career goals”; and 56 percent moved to a job with better working conditions.

We also see that 5 percent of respondents started their own business after receiving DACA. Among respondents 25 years and older, this climbs to 8 percent. As the 2016 survey noted, among the American public as a whole, the rate of starting a business is 3.1 percent, meaning that DACA recipients are outpacing the general population in terms of business creation.

As one respondent stated, “I started a bookkeeping business which gives me the opportunity to help our Hispanic community be in compliance with tax law […] If DACA ended, I will not be able to keep my small business and help my community.”

Another respondent stated, “Because of DACA, I opened a restaurant. We are contributing to the economic growth of our local community. We pay our fair share of taxes and hire employees […] It will be hard to maintain my business if DACA ended. I depend on my [social security number] for a lot of my business, such as when getting licenses, permits, leases, and credit.”

DACA’s impact on earnings

The data make clear that DACA is having a positive and significant effect on wages. The average hourly wage of respondents increased by 69 percent since receiving DACA, rising from $10.29 per hour to $17.46 per hour. Among respondents 25 years and older, the average hourly wage increased by 84 percent since receiving DACA.

The data also show that respondents’ average annual earnings come out to $36,232, and their median annual earnings total $32,000. Among respondents 25 years and older, the figures are $41,621 and $37,595, respectively. These higher wages are not just important for recipients and their families but also for tax revenues and economic growth at the local, state, and federal levels.

Last year, we noted that further research is needed to parse out the short- and long-run wage effects of DACA as well as whether short-run gains represent a plateau in earnings or if more robust long-run wage effects may exist. This remains true. However, as DACA recipients are now further along in their careers, and as we continue to see growth in their earnings, it is likely there is even more room for recipients’ wages to grow.

The immediate impact of wage increases is evident in 69 percent of survey respondents reporting that their increased earnings have “helped me become financially independent” and 71 percent reporting that their increased earnings have “helped my family financially.” Among respondents 25 years and older, these percentages rise to 73 percent and 74 percent, respectively.

DACA’s impact on the economy

The purchasing power of DACA recipients continues to increase. In the 2017 study, nearly two-thirds of respondents, or 65 percent, reported purchasing their first car. The average cost paid was $16,469. As we have noted previously, these large purchases matter in terms of state revenue, as most states collect a percentage of the purchase price in sales tax, along with additional registration and title fees. The added revenue for states comes in addition to the safety benefits of having more licensed and insured drivers on the roads.

The data also show that 16 percent of respondents purchased their first home after receiving DACA. Among respondents 25 years and older, this percentage rises to 24 percent. The broader positive economic effects of home purchases include the creation of jobs and the infusion of new spending in local economies.

Additionally—and importantly—the data show that at least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies—including Walmart, Apple, General Motors, Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, Home Depot, and Wells Fargo, among others—employ DACA recipients. All told, these companies account for $2.8 trillion in annual revenue.

DACA’s impact on education

Overall, 45 percent of respondents are currently in school. Among those currently in school, 72 percent are pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher. The majors and specializations that respondents report include accounting, biochemistry, business administration, chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer science, early childhood education, economics, environmental science, history, law, mathematics, mechanical engineering, neuroscience, physics, psychology, and social work, to name a few.

When it comes to educational attainment, 36 percent of respondents 25 years and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Importantly, among those who are currently in school, a robust 94 percent said that, because of DACA, “I pursued educational opportunities that I previously could not.”


Our findings could not paint a clearer picture: DACA has been unreservedly good for the U.S. economy and for U.S. society more generally. Previous research has shown that DACA beneficiaries will contribute $460.3 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product over the next decade—economic growth that would be lost were DACA to be eliminated.

As our results show, the inclusion of these young people has contributed to more prosperous local, state and national economies; to safer and stronger communities through increased access to cars and home ownership; and to a more prepared and educated workforce for the future. Ending DACA now would be counterproductive at best and, at worst, cruel. At present, 800,000 lives—as well as the lives of their families and friends—hang in the balance. At a time when the continuing existence of DACA is facing its most serious threat ever, understanding the benefits of the program for recipients; their families and communities; and to the nation as a whole is all the more important.

Tom K. Wong is associate professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego. Greisa Martinez Rosas is advocacy and policy director, Adam Luna is senior advisor for communications, Henry Manning is research fellow, and Adrian Reyna is director of membership and technology strategies at United We Dream. Patrick O’Shea is Mellon/ACLS public fellow at the National Immigration Law Center. Tom Jawetz is vice president for Immigration Policy and Philip E. Wolgin is managing director for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress.

The authors thank all those who took the survey for their time and effort in helping to bring these stories to light.


The questionnaire was administered to an online panel of DACA recipients recruited by the partner organizations. Several steps were taken to account for the known sources of bias that result from such online panels. To prevent ballot stuffing—one person submitting multiple responses—the authors did not offer an incentive to respondents for taking the questionnaire and used a state-of-the-art online survey platform that does not allow one IP address to submit multiple responses. To prevent spoiled ballots—meaning, people responding who are not undocumented—the authors used a unique validation test for undocumented status. Multiple questions were asked about each respondent’s migratory history. These questions were asked at different parts of the questionnaire. When repeated, the questions were posed using different wording. If there was agreement in the answers such that there was consistency regarding the respondent’s migratory history, the respondent was kept in the resulting pool of respondents. If not, the respondent was excluded. In order to recruit respondents outside of the networks of the partner organizations, Facebook ads were also used. Because there is no phone book of undocumented immigrants, and given the nature of online opt-in surveys, it is not possible to construct a valid margin of error.

ICYMI: Antonio Villaraigosa Featured in The New York Times

ICYMI: Antonio Villaraigosa Featured in The New York Times

  • Share this Article

In case you missed it – Antonio’s interview with Mike McPhate was featured in The New York Times this morning.

“I’ve been talking about the need to focus on an economy that’s working for more people and building more middle-class jobs. We need to restore the luster of the California dream and make sure that that dream is for everyone, not based on your zip code or what part of the state you live in.”

You can read the New York Times article by Mike McPhate below:

California Today: A Candidate for Governor Looks to the Central Valley

antonio villaraigosa new york times orange county register ap photo

Antonio R. Villaraigosa, a former mayor of Los Angeles, has been courting Central Valley voters in his bid for governor. Credit Mark Rightmire/The Orange County Register, via Associated Press


The path to the governorship of California winds through the Central Valley.

That, at least, is the idea animating the candidacy of Antonio R. Villaraigosa, a former two-term mayor of Los Angeles and speaker of the State Assembly.

While California is a blue state, candidates in the 2018 governor’s race won’t be able to rely on Democratic votes alone. Among registered voters, roughly 45 percent are Democrats, and 26 percent Republican.

Mr. Villaraigosa, 64, was raised by a single mother in a poor neighborhood on Los Angeles’s Eastside.

In speeches and interviews, he has portrayed himself as a potential champion of California’s interior, where he spent time during an extended “listening tour” that began in 2015.

Along the way, he’s taken shots at his better-funded rival, Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor and former San Francisco mayor, whose candidacy has been a favorite of voters in the Bay Area.

We caught up with Mr. Villaraigosa by phone. Some excerpts:

Q. How do you differ from the other Democratic candidates?

A. I’ve been talking about the need to focus on an economy that’s working for more people and building more middle-class jobs. We need to restore the luster of the California dream and make sure that that dream is for everyone, not based on your ZIP code or what part of the state you live in.

What have you been hearing from people in the Central Valley?

I think there is a sense that they want to be included in the California rebound that they hear politicians talk about in Sacramento virtually daily. When you hear people say “We’re creating more jobs,” what they don’t say is that, while that’s true, most of that has been in the Bay Area and along the coast.

I think we should all be concerned that Marin County has among the nation’s highest rankings for well-being and 100 miles away in the Central Valley, they have among the lowest.

What’s your pitch to the Bay Area?

The pitch to the Bay Area and to the affluent parts of Los Angeles or San Diego or any place on the coast is that we won’t survive and thrive if we’re not growing together.

A high-wage worker puts more money into our Social Security system. A high-wage worker is buying more goods. A high-wage worker is less dependent on the public health system.

How do you assess Eric Garcetti’s tenure as mayor of Los Angeles?

Oh, I’m not running against Garcetti.

You’re the former mayor, you must …

I take a page out of Bush’s playbook, where he didn’t comment about Obama, and Obama doesn’t comment for the most part about Trump — you would think he’d comment a lot more given what Trump does — but you know Garcetti is a very popular mayor in this town. He’s got his own record that he can point to.

This interview has been condensed and edited.



  • Share this Article

When Antonio launched his campaign for Governor, he made a simple yet powerful pledge – his campaign would work to give voice to EVERY Californian. Antonio understands that the millions of Californians doing everything right but still falling behind also need to be heard in Sacramento and in every corridor of power.

That’s why our campaign is working to give every Californian the tools to be heard – by Antonio, our campaign and beyond. We have been asking people all over the state to share their own California Dream – from prominent leaders like Cruz Reynoso to hundreds of rank and file voters – and the response has been amazing and inspiring.

Please add your voice here and let us share it with the rest of California.

Cruz ReynosoSpeak Submission of the Week

“I am a farmworker’s son who has five brothers and five sisters. My first job was picking oranges in Orange County, California. My dream is to have free public education (as we once had) from K-12 to college and graduate school. That is what helped me become an attorney.” – Cruz Reynoso, Civil Rights Leader and Retired Jurist


Add your voice today!

Latest Endorsements

This week, we want to thank Merced County Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza, Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez, Downey Councilwoman Blanca Pacheco and former San Francisco Supervisor David Campos who have added their names to the long list of supporters for Antonio’s campaign. Every day, more and more people recognize the importance of Antonio’s mission to give voice to every Californian and join our campaign.

If you would like to add your name to the growing list of endorsers, please endorse Antonio today!

The Team Gets Stronger

We have some big news here at the Antonio for California campaign – veteran communications strategist Luis Vizcaino has joined the team as Communications Director. Luis has worked on political campaigns at the local, state and national level.

In 2005, he served as communications advisor for Antonio’s successful race for Los Angeles Mayor and later was the spokesperson for the Mayor-Elect’s transition team. He has also served as a spokesperson for the California Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee and the Human Rights Campaign. In 2007, he was recruited by the Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign to serve as California Communications Director.

You can reach Luis at [email protected].

In the News

“California gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa made a campaign stop in Monterey County Friday, and local ag representatives filled him in on the local labor shortage. Ricky Cabrera, owner of Cabrera Ranch, told Villaraigosa that he normally would be employing 340 people at this time of the year, but right now he has only about 240 workers.” – Monterey Herald, 8/18/17

“Gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa said during a stop in Riverside on Wednesday, Aug. 16, that he wants Inland cities such as Riverside, Moreno Valley, and Fontana to be known as ‘Villaraigosa country.’ ‘All these areas have strivers,’ Villaraigosa said. ‘Some of them, they wanted to buy a home, build a business, and L.A. was too expensive.'” – The Press-Enterprise, 8/16/17

“Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is running for governor, spoke after Gutierrez and offered praise to the city. Villaraigosa, who joined Gutierrez for a tour of the 1.8-million square-foot Skechers warehouse developed by Highland Fairview after the event, said he supported the World Logistics Center.” – The Press-Enterprise, 8/16/17

“Many of USC Village’s retailers are touching down in South L.A. for the first time, including Trader Joe’s, Target and trendy Sunset Boulevard eatery The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker. ‘Thank you for understanding the key to the future of this university is in its connection to its neighborhood,’ said Antonio Villaraigosa, who was Los Angeles mayor when the project was approved.” – USC News, 8/17/17

On the Campaign Trail

Yesterday, Antonio spent the day in Sacramento with UDW/AFSCME, AFL-CIO and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition. This weekend, he’ll be in Anaheim with the California Democratic Party Executive Board. Don’t forget to connect with us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and LinkedIn to get updates from the campaign trail!



WEEKLY UPDATE: New #FactsSpeak Video from Antonio for California Campaign

WEEKLY UPDATE: New #FactsSpeak Video from Antonio for California Campaign

  • Share this Article

There are candidates in the race for governor taking a lot of positions (and sometimes taking both sides of the same position!), but Antonio knows the facts speak for themselves. That’s why he’s focusing this week’s online video on the fact that California has the highest overall poverty rate in the nation.

Antonio’s campaign is all about creating millions of new high-wage jobs. He knows that to close the gap between the rich and the poor we need to rebuild an economy that works for the millions of families who are doing everything right, but are still falling behind.

Please take a look at our new The Facts Speak For Themselves video – and share it with all of your friends and colleagues.

The Endorsements Keep Rolling In

Thank you to Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, former Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez and Moreno Valley Mayor Dr. Yxstian Gutierrez for their endorsements! These Inland Empire leaders are adding their names to the thousands of supporters and elected officials who have joined our campaign. We’re excited to work with these leaders in creating a better future for every Californian.

Don’t forget to add your name to the growing list of supporters today!

Speak Submission of the Week

“The pride of the U.S. I want California to be the catalyst for which other states strive to achieve in business, cultural diversity and religion. I am an Army Veteran, MBA graduate and Second Generation Mexican American, but I AM a U.S. citizen first and a Native Californian next. My background alone has been hit with so much rancor and distaste from what I can only define as ‘Middle America.’ I want California to be the state that looks past ‘types or races’ and focuses on the individual and his/her merits. We are California. We are the U.S.A.” – Joe Espinoza, Valencia, California

Our campaign is driven by your voice – I hope you will submit your California dream today.

In the News

Antonio Villaraigosa: “I think in California, we need to acknowledge that we are the sixth-largest economy [in the world] in no small part because of the contributions of immigrants, including the undocumented. As a result, here in California, we revel in our diversity, and welcome our foreign-born.” – Al Jazeera Features, August 5, 2017

On the Campaign Trail

Antonio is hitting the campaign trail this week with stops in Moreno Valley, Watsonville and Salinas. He will visit Moreno Valley for the State of the City address, Watsonville for the Annual Pajaro Valley Cesar Chavez Democratic Club Dinner and then on to Salinas to speak at Alisal High School assembly and attend an agricultural tour. Don’t forget to connect with us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and LinkedIn to see photos and video from these and other upcoming events!

WEEKLY UPDATE: Another Exciting Week for the Antonio for California Campaign

WEEKLY UPDATE: Another Exciting Week for the Antonio for California Campaign

  • Share this Article

Thank you to The Honorable Fred Keeley, former Speaker pro Tem of the California Assembly, Blanca Alvarado, former City of San Jose Vice Mayor and Santa Clara County Supervisor, and Leticia Perez, Kern County Supervisor, 5th District, for your recent endorsements! We are humbled by the support of these incredible leaders.

They are joining the nearly 1,000 elected officials, former elected officials and prominent community leaders who are now taking leadership roles for our campaign in every corner of California. Thanks to these leaders, we are building the kind of campaign structure that can make sure every voice is heard in California – and most of all make sure we can adopt policies that create more high-wage jobs and close the gap between rich and poor.

Do you want to be a part of this core group of 1,000 early supporters and leaders?

Make sure to add your name to the growing list of supporters today!

The Campaign Goes National

Our campaign for good jobs and economic equality continues to attract national attention. This past week Antonio spoke with Jacob Soboroff on MSNBC. Antonio has always understood that one of the foundations of economic prosperity is safe neighborhoods where communities and businesses can thrive. In the interview, Antonio discussed the policies he developed as Mayor that dramatically reduced crime in Los Angeles – including community-based policing and job re-entry programs. “It was why we went to one of the most dangerous cities in the United States of America, except for New York, to the safest big city with a population over one million.”

Antonio was also a featured guest on “The Beat with Ari Melber,” talking about the failed Republican health care bill. Antonio once again defended the Affordable Care Act and called for both parties to work together. “Everybody agrees that we can fix Obamacare – let’s do that,” Antonio said. You can watch his appearance on MSNBC here.

Also in the News

“But while Newsom has only ‘set standards,’ Villaraigosa portrayed himself as a doer who in eight years as LA mayor oversaw infrastructure improvements, a 28% reduction in carbon emissions, growth in green-energy jobs and contract concessions to hold down rising public employee pension costs.” – Voice of Orange County, August 3, 2017

“In many ways, the split between north and south mirrors the ‘Two Californias’ that Villaraigosa talks about. The nine counties of Northern California’s Bay Area have been the heart of the state’s technology boom, while the sprawling suburbs of Southern California have seen growing poverty and still show signs of hardship in the wake of the Great Recession of a decade ago.” – Pacific Standard, August 1, 2017

Your Voice, Your California

Antonio’s campaign is about giving a voice to those who’ve been left out or left behind. Make your voice heard by submitting your dream for a better California today!

And in case you missed it, Antonio’s campaign got some serious buzz in Politico’s California Playbook – check it out for yourself here.
antonio villaraigosa contribute button contribute to antonio villaraigosa for california governor

WEEKLY UPDATE: Another Great Week for the Antonio for California Campaign

WEEKLY UPDATE: Another Great Week for the Antonio for California Campaign

  • Share this Article

We’ve had another great week here at the Antonio for California campaign and wanted to share all our news! Today, we’re launching the first of our “Facts Speak for Themselves” video series. Did you know that immigrants contribute $715 billion to California’s GDP each year? As the Trump administration continues to attack immigrants, let’s stand together and remember that without the contributions of immigrants, our state would be in deep economic trouble. Like and share our new video and don’t forget to sign our #NoBanNoWall petition! 

Town Hall on Education

Our campaign is about giving voice to all Californians, and this week we launched one more way people can be heard. Last Thursday, we held our first town hall on education policy. This is just the beginning, and we’ll continue to hold more online town halls on issues such as immigration, housing and more. Not everyone can make it to an event, but everyone with a computer or a mobile smartphone can be heard.

If you were unable to join us, you can read the full town hall here. And if you have questions that didn’t get answered, you can email them to us at [email protected].

Don’t forget to follow us on social media (FacebookInstagramTwitter and LinkedIn) to get updates and an invitation to our next town hall.

New Endorsements Keep Rolling In

This week, we want to thank Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price and California State Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra for their endorsements. In addition, we’re honored to have the endorsement of Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Michele Martinez. These elected leaders join hundreds of others and tens of thousands of Californians who have now joined our campaign. If you would like to add your personal endorsement for Antonio, click here.

On the Campaign Trail

Antonio continues to visit every corner of California. If you missed his stop in San Diego last week, you can read about it in La Prensa San Diego. This week, Antonio spent a morning in Orange County and finished the day in Oakland. And finally, he finished the week in the Coachella Valley.

In the News

“A May poll by UC Berkeley put Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom atop the field at 22 percent, followed by Villaraigosa at 17 percent and San Diego businessman John Cox at 9 percent…state Treasurer John Chiang (5 percent) and former state schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin (3 percent).” – OC Register, 7/26/17

“The primary campaign for California governor might be a year away, but one candidate is already traveling around the state chatting up likely voters. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa visited Oakland last night at an event hosted at Tertulia Coffee. Among attendees were Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer, and Oakland Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney.” – East Bay Express, 7/27/17

“California gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa said Friday that he supports the state’s 10-year plan for the shrinking Salton Sea and would follow through to develop a long-range plan if he is elected in 2018.” – Desert Sun, 7/28/17

ICYMI: Antonio’s Letter to Latino and African American Caucuses

Antonio has spent his entire career fighting for the poor and communities of color in California. This week, he reiterated his support for Affirmative Action with a letter in response to the Latino and African American Caucuses. Antonio was, himself, a beneficiary of an Affirmative Action program and knows how that changed the course of his life by allowing him to attend and graduate from UCLA.

In his letter, Antonio wrote, “As I travel around California, it is clear to me that poverty, while certainly concentrated in some communities of color, is not unique to only communities of color. There are struggling families of every race – and in this emerging post-racial world, struggling families of mixed races. Although we must continue to fight every day to create a more perfect union by addressing racial inequality, we must acknowledge that Affirmative Action must also work to address the inequities of gender and economics.” You can read the full letter here.

P.S. Don’t forget to connect with us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and LinkedIn for the latest campaign news!