Positivity in ‘Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals’

August marks the second year that President Obama’s executive memorandum DACA, Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals, has helped immigrant youth reach greater social and economic potential in the United States. In 2012, DACA allowed immigrant youth who lived most of their lives in the U.S. to obtain a 2-year work authorization without fear of being removed from the U.S. It is very interesting to see the outcomes of DACA, and it is very sad that Congress is not allowing more youth to apply for DACA under the recent bill HR. 5272 passed on August 1.

These were the requirements for DACA eligibility:

  • entered the U.S. before the age of 16
  • between the ages of 15 to 30 before June 1, 2012
  • lived continuously in the U.S. for at least 5 years (since June 2007)
  • attending school or possess a H.S. diploma or GED
  • honorably discharged veterans of U.S. armed forces or the coast guard
  • no felonies or significant misdemeanors

youth_dacaIn 2013, over 530,000 youth applied to DACA, and it was estimated that there was a population of over 1 million who were eligible to apply (Batavola et al., 2013). California, Texas, and New York had the highest applicants and eligible youth. Factors that influenced application to DACA could have been the assistance in filling out the application, cost of legal assistance, the $465 fee, difficulty proving continuous 5-year residency, and the type of work, which may not require authorization to work, or a driver’s license.

Immigrant youth in rural areas are at a disadvantage based on the education criteria, and the greater necessity to work instead of go to school. Of the 1.7 million youth eligible for DACA, approximately 250,000 youth are more likely to work in low wage jobs such as agriculture, the poultry/ meat industry, or in construction (Barrientos, 2013). Four out of every 5 farmworkers need  more education to meet DACA criteria; however, there is a lack of adult education programs in rural areas and limited avenues for public transportation.

In the first year assessment with a sample of 1,400 DACA youth between the ages of 18-31, researchers convey the economic and social benefits that DACA permitted within the first year.

Image from How DACA is impacting the lives of those who are now DACAmented, 2013
From How DACA is impacting the lives of those who are now DACAmented, 2013

By March 2014, over 600,000 youth applied to DACA and 553,197 were approved. In a second year assessment, Harvard researchers found that youth with more education benefitted the most from DACA. In their sample  of 2,381 DACA youth between the ages of 18 to 32, nearly 75% came from low-income households. Youth with a Bachelor’s degree were 1.5 more likely to obtain a new job and earn a greater income; while those in 4-year universities were 1.6 more likely to obtain internships than those not attending a university.

From Two Years and Counting: Assessing the Growing Power of DACA, 2014
From Two Years and Counting: Assessing the Growing Power of DACA, 2014

These findings suggest immigrant youth’s strife to contribute to society and DACA has helped them obtain opportunities that were previously unattainable, including work authorization, social security numbers, health care, and access to federal financial aid in some states like California. (Before DACA, the California AB. 540 bill allowed immigrant youth to pay in-state tuition, rather than international fees, but there was no access to financial aid or scholarships.)

In August the first rounds of the 2-year DACA renewals will begin, and we will continue to see the positive outcomes of DACA.

Unfortunately, the immigration bill HR. 5272 that prohibits more immigrant youth from applying for DACA will limit the ability of many Latino/as to contribute to the economy with their full potential. It is up to the President to determine further political actions.

As these reports show, immigrant youth are positively contributing to society, and it is unjust that this bill will impede the efforts of many more Latino/a youth. Their economic contributions in the future will remain unknown. It is very ironic that aspirational Latino/a youth are being repressed though the Latino/a community is expected to be the majority population in the future.


Barrientos, W. (2013). Helping disadvantaged youth in rural communities: DACA implementation and funding opportunities. Sebastopol CA: Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees.

Gonzales, R., & Terriquez, V. (2013). How DACA is impacting the lives of those who are now DACAmented.  Washington D.C.: Immigration Policy Center.

Gonzales, R., & Bautista-Chavez, A. (2014). Two years and counting: Assessing the growing power of DACA. Washington D.C.: American Immigration Council.

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