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Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

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On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status.

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On June 15, 2012, President Obama created a new policy calling for deferred action for certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children. Applications under the program which is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) began on August 15, 2012. Deferred action is a discretionary, limited immigration benefit by DHS. It can be granted to individuals who have never been in removal proceedings, are currently in removal proceedings, or who have final orders of removal. Individuals who have deferred action can apply for employment authorization and are in the U.S. under color of law. However, there is no direct path from deferred action to lawful permanent residence or to citizenship. And, it can be revoked at any time.In addition, any other misdemeanor for which an applicant was sentenced to more than 90 days in jail, not including suspended sentences and time held pursuant to an immigration detainer, will be deemed a significant misdemeanor.

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The existing empirical analyses of the effects of DACA on the educational outcomes of undocumented youth face the same data limitations that all quantitative efforts to study the undocumented population face. Pope (2016) and Amuedo-Dorantes and Antman (2017) use data from the ACS and CPS, respectively. Lacking information on immigrants’ legal status, they assume that non-citizens in a given age range are undocumented. Both studies find positive effects of DACA on employment but mixed results of effects on schooling. Whereas AmuedoDorantes and Antman (2017) finds that DACA reduces college enrollment among probable DACA eligible students, Pope (2016) finds no significant effect of DACA on schooling. Other studies have relied on web-based surveys of undocumented college students to explore the effect of DACA on college outcomes and find that DACA allows recipients to pursue educational opportunities that they previously could not (Wong et al. 2015; Gonzales et al

2016). However, respondents of online surveys are self-selected and likely to be higher achieving and more motivated than the general population of undocumented students. Thus, it is unclear whether the findings based on online surveys can be generalized to the entire population of undocumented college students.

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In the long run, as DACA continues to be debated in Congress and the courts and as the fate of DREAMers remains in limbo, it is therefore important to understand that the case for DACA is not just a moral but also an economic one, and it is hoped that this paper has provided some insight on the economic benefits of DACA for DREAMers.

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Wong T K, Richter K, Rodriguez I, Wolgin P E (2015) Results from a Nationwide Survey of DACA Recipients Illustrate the Program’s Impact. Center for American Progress

Pope N (2016) The Effects of DACAmentation: The Impact of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on Unauthorized Immigrants, Journal of Public Economics 143, 98-114.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. (2017) Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by Fiscal Year, 2012-2016.

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