Study: Deferred Action (DACA) Helping Longtime U.S. Residents

August 14, 2013

The Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was the executive branch response to the many repeated failings of Congress to pass the DREAM Act. DACA grants temporary (and renewable) legal status and work authorization to those who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children. With the program having been running for almost one year, we are now getting our first detailed look into its implementation, thanks to a Brookings Institute study released today.

The study looks at DACA applications made between August 15, 2012 and March 22, 2013, and uses information the Brookings Institute gained from a FOIA request to the Department of Homeland Security. Key findings include:

  • About 557,000 people had applied for DACA through the end of June, out of the 900,000 people estimated to be eligible for the program
  • 72% of applicants have been in the U.S. for 10 years or more
  • 69% of applicants arrived in the U.S. when they were 10 or younger
  • More than half of all applicants were under 21 at their time of arrival

While DACA is narrow in focus, it sheds light on the broader immigration debate. It allows people who are already here for the long term (again, 72% have been in the U.S. for more than a decade without legal status) to engage the government at various levels without fear of deportation. This has obvious benefits (legal employment options will lead to income tax collections), as well as less obvious benefits (more people will feel safe to call 911 when they witness or are victims of a crime).


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