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New CAP Reports Highlight Significant Contributions and Entrepreneurial Spirit of DACA Recipients

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Two new reports from the Center for American Progress (CAP) continue to highlight the significant successes of the popular  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The first piece examines their contributions to Medicare and Social Security, while the second focuses on entrepreneurship and economic contributions. 

The CAP article, “DACA Recipients Bolster Social Security and Medicare,” reveals that DACA beneficiaries have helped keep the Social Security and Medicare programs alive through their taxes, contributing more than $2 billion annually. 

“The economic gains of DACA recipients reverberate throughout the country, strengthening the security of working Americans, retirees, and their families,” the authors write. “In fact, CAP estimates that in 2022, more than 482,000 DACA recipients were in the workforce, collectively earning nearly $27.9 billion and contributing nearly $2.1 billion to Social Security and Medicare annually. In addition, their employers contributed more than $1.6 billion in payroll taxes toward Social Security and Medicare on these DACA recipients’ behalf.”

Past research has revealed that undocumented immigrants have kept Social Security afloat for today’s beneficiaries, contributing $100 billion over a decade. In fact, Stephen Goss, Social Security Administration Chief Actuary, said in 2014 that without the contributions of undocumented immigrants, “Social Security would have entered persistent shortfall of tax revenue to cover payouts starting in 2009.” 

But even though DACA recipients are “deeply embedded in the fabric of American society,” they’re ineligible to apply for the programs they help sustain. The Biden administration did last year propose a rule expanding the Affordable Care Act eligibility to include current DACA recipients, but it has so far not yet been finalized.

The second piece, “Despite Barriers, DACA Entrepreneurs Contribute To Their Communities,”

highlights the entrepreneurial spirit of DACA beneficiaries, noting DACA “has empowered its recipients to pursue entrepreneurship and continue helping their families, their communities, and the U.S. economy in the face of significant barriers.”

“Starting a business takes tremendous courage, financial support, and hard work,” the authors write. “While anyone, regardless of immigration status, can obtain an employer identification number so that they can hire workers and file business tax returns—and anyone can pay taxes using an individual taxpayer identification number—DACA provides its recipients with a sense of security, stability, and access to greater support for their business needs.”

Among these entrepreneurs is Christian Serrano, a Texas-based DACA recipient who started a home design and construction business as a way to support his family. Through hard work and sweat, he now has more than a dozen employees. “Serrano’s contributions to the local economy have not gone unnoticed,” authors noted. “He was recently honored with Dallas Business Journal’s 2023 ‘40 Under 40’ award.” 

Alejandro Flores-Muñoz, a DACA recipient in Colorado, said his mom supported their family by selling flan and cheesecake she made out of their kitchen. Inheriting this same entrepreneurial spirit, Flores-Muñoz opened a coffee and catering business after obtaining DACA protections, employing five people and even winning a six-figure contract from the city of Denver. “I don’t just employ people; I strive to elevate them,” Flores-Muñoz said in the report.

Past research from CAP found that DACA recipients have outpaced U.S.-born Americans when it comes to opening a business. Overall, DACA recipients represent a critical part of the U.S. workforce, including filling jobs deemed essential during the novel coronavirus pandemic. “According to CAP’s 2022 survey of DACA recipients, 90.7 percent of DACA recipients ages 25 and older are employed,” CAP said in its new report. “As DACA recipients earn more, they achieve greater financial independence for themselves and their families.” 

Putting DACA recipients onto a pathway to citizenship remains one of the most popular positions held by the American electorate. “By a more than 4:1 margin, voters overall support a proposal that would create an earned path to citizenship for Dreamers,” 2022 polling found. It’s been long overdue, and is as urgent as ever due to GOP-led litigation that’s since blocked first-time applicants from the program.

“DACA recipients are parents, homeowners, leaders and caregivers,” Yuna Oh, a DACA recipient and Political Associate at America’s Voice, said last year. “We are part of the American identity, whether the GOP recognizes it or not. While being a DACA recipient opened doors in my life, without a permanent solution, the opponents of DACA in the Republican Party continue to gamble with my life and the lives of 600,000 others. I am an American, and this is my home.”