How DACA Helped Immigrants Get More Education and Higher-Paying Jobs

It remains to be seen how taking away those benefits will affect the American economy.
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Demonstrators gather on Pennsylvania Avenue in response to the Trump administration's announcement that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on September 5th, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Demonstrators gather on Pennsylvania Avenue in response to the Trump administration's announcement that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on September 5th, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

President Donald Trump ordered on Tuesday an "orderly wind-down" of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era policy that protected undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children from deportation. The U.S. will no longer accept new DACA applications, and the fate of current DACA beneficiaries is now up to Congress.

The president framed the decision as one that will ultimately reserve economic opportunities for American citizens. "We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans," he said. On that point, the research both refutes and supports Trump's claim: Some studies suggest that having more immigrants helps grow the economy and may in fact create more jobs, although the presence of undocumented immigrants has also historically depressed the wages and employment rates of American citizens who don't have any training beyond a high school diploma.

DACA, meanwhile, appeared to help recipients pull themselves out of that low-skilled labor pool. That's according to a survey of 3,063 DACA recipients, conducted last month by University of California–San Diego political scientist Tom Wong on behalf of the Center for American Progress, a think tank that has advocated for preserving DACA. Below are the top five takeaways from Wong's survey of 3,063 DACA recipients:

  • DACA helped recipients get jobs. Thirty-nine percent of respondents aged 25 and older said they were employed before they received DACA benefits. After, that number rose to 93 percent.
  • DACA raised recipients' wages. Survey respondents aged 25 and older reported earning a median wage of about $21,000 a year before receiving DACA benefits. They earned $38,000 after. Meanwhile, in 2015, the median annual wage in the U.S. was about $30,000.
  • DACA helped recipients get educated. Sixty-five percent said that, after DACA, they pursued educational opportunities they previously couldn't. Forty-five percent are currently in school.
  • ...but not quite at the rate that other Americans are. Twenty-seven percent of survey-takers aged 25 or older had a bachelor's degree. Among Americans in general, that number is 33 percent.
  • DACA helped recipients participate in the American economy. Survey-takers' top three answers for what they did after their DACA application was approved all had to do with earning more money. Numbers four and five were "Got my first credit card" and "Bought my first car."

It remains to be seen how the removal of these opportunities will affect the American economy.

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