By Betsy Lawrence

On June 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which has allowed hundreds of thousands of noncitizens who were brought to the United States as children to live, study, and work in our communities—contributing to our economy and the future of our country—without fear of removal.  Today, on the 10th Anniversary of DACA, the Biden-Harris Administration celebrates the remarkable contributions of Dreamers and DACA recipients, reaffirms its commitment to preserving this landmark policy, and calls on Congress to pass legislation to provide lasting protections to Dreamers.

Economic Contributions and Educational Achievements of DACA Recipients

DACA has profoundly improved the lives and economic circumstances of individual recipients and their families—and by extension, the communities in which they live, and our country as a whole.  Since 2012, approximately 825,000 individuals have been granted DACA. 

DACA recipients have increased earning potential.  According to a 2021 study by the University of Texas at San Antonio, DACA beneficiaries experienced increases in college enrollment and degree completions, as well as more professional job opportunities, as compared to their non-DACA-eligible counterparts.  During the period of 2012 to 2016—

  • the number of DACA recipients with a Bachelor’s degree tripled;
  • professional job attainment for DACA recipients grew by 34%; and
  • the incomes of DACA recipients more than doubled. 

The benefits of this increase in prosperity extend well beyond DACA recipients and their families. DACA households have significant spending power—they own more than 68,000 homes across the country, contribute $760 million in mortgage payments and $2.5 billion in rental payments annually, and pay $6.2 billion in federal taxes and $3.3 billion in state and local taxes each year.

DACA recipients enrich our lives and make us safer.  Approximately 343,000 DACA recipients are employed in industries deemed essential by the Department of Homeland Security. This includes an estimated 20,000 educators in our nation’s schools and classrooms, 34,000 healthcare workers, and 100,000 food supply chain workers who have worked tirelessly to support and sustain us during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

DACA strengthens American families. With the peace of mind that comes with protection from removal, DACA keeps families together.  An estimated 300,000 U.S. citizen children have at least one parent with DACA, and roughly three-fourths of DACA recipients have a U.S. citizen child, sibling, spouse, or parent.  

Economic Benefits of Permanent Protections for Dreamers

Of the 825,000 noncitizens who have been granted DACA since 2012, 76,000 have since become lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and approximately 4,000 have gone on to become naturalized U.S. citizens.  While strengthening and fortifying DACA is essential, providing permanent protections to Dreamers and others will generate even more economic value for the country.

At a time when American employers are struggling to find workers in critical industries, providing an opportunity for DACA recipients and Dreamers to obtain lawful status will increase the effective labor supply and boost economic growth. Permanent protections would allow this population to contribute indefinitely to the economy in sectors that are heavily reliant on immigrant workers, such as agriculture, construction, and leisure and hospitality, while also providing increased job mobility and better employment options with long term trajectories for growth.  Studies show that new permanent residents have greater productivity than their undocumented counterparts and generate increased tax revenues

Conclusion

DACA recipients enrich our nation with their deep community ties, exceptional talents, and work ethic.  On Day Oneof this Administration, President Biden directed the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to take all appropriate actions to “preserve and fortify” DACA.  The Biden Administration has worked vigorously to defend DACA in court and is working expeditiously on a rule to codify and preserve the policy.  Ultimately, however, only Congress can provide the permanent relief that Dreamers need and that our country deserves.   

Unfortunately, for more than two decades, efforts to pass legislation providing a durable solution for Dreamers have failed.  It was 2001 when Senators Durbin and Hatch introduced the first bipartisan Dream Act, offering conditional residency and a path to permanent residence to undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children. In March 2021, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, introduced by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, with bipartisan support.  On the ten-year anniversary of DACA, the Biden-Harris Administration celebrates DACA recipients and again calls on Congress to pass legislation to protect and honor Dreamers who make our country stronger.  

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