A new United We Dream survey of more than 1,750 DACA recipients showcases how the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals Program has led to drastic improvements in the daily lives of undocumented youth.
The United We Dream survey — one of the largest of its kind to date — shows “that DACA recipients have made great strides and are often the bedrock of economic and social support for their families,” according to a statement from United We Dream.
As Vox’s Dara Lind writes in a must-read post, “DACA [was] designed to take away…basic barriers: to allow young unauthorized immigrants to live in the US, go to school legally, work legally, and drive legally.”
And, the results — ranging from financial to psychological improvements — have been remarkable. Some key findings on the United We Dream survey, as noted by Lind:
- “The new UWD survey found that 90 percent of respondents had gotten a driver’s license and 40 percent had bought their first car”
- “Eighty percent of respondents were employed — and nearly all of them (76 percent of all respondents) had gotten a better-paying job since getting their DACA status”
- “Additionally, 30 percent of respondents said they’d returned to school, and 31 percent said they’d qualified for additional financial aid”
And though immigration reform legislation remains stalled at the federal level, and President Obama’s 2014 immigration actions remain blocked due to a Republican-led lawsuit, DACA recipients used their successes to lift up their family members:
Because DACA recipients can work legally and many of them are earning more money, they’re in a better position to help their families make ends meet: 59 percent of survey respondents say they can better help their families financially now that they have DACA, and 62 percent help families pay the bills.
Because they can drive legally, they can help drive their families around: 41 percent say they’re drivers for their families.
And in some cases, their greater financial legitimacy is something they open up to their families as well: 12 percent of DACA recipients surveyed said their name is on their family’s lease; 12 percent said their family uses their credit card; and 11 percent said their family uses their bank account.
Perhaps one of the greatest findings, according to the survey, has been the “overwhelming psychic benefits” and feeling of belonging in the United States that DACA recipients have felt since the program’s implementation in 2012:
Studies have shown that the families of unauthorized immigrants — even children born in the US — often feel increased stress, anxiety, or depression because they’re worried about their relatives being deported. This could even lead to long-term mental health effects and “decreased American identity,” according to a recent report on immigrant integration from the National Academies of Sciences.
DACA recipients who have unauthorized parents or relatives are still living with much of this. But they no longer have to worry about deportation themselves. And three years into DACA, this appears to be one of the program’s lasting legacies.
But what’s most striking is what DACA recipients said about the psychological effects of DACA. Even in 2013, most DACA recipients felt safer after getting protected from deportation: 66 percent said they were no longer afraid, and 64 percent said they felt more like they belonged in the US. But as the program continues, those feelings are only growing. In 2015, 78 percent of DACA recipients say they’re no longer afraid. And 72 percent say they feel like they belong in America.
It’s clear DACA works, yet an expansion to DACA, as part of President Obama’s 2014 immigration actions, has also been blocked as a result of the Republican lawsuit. And Donald Trump, the current Republican frontrunner, promises to undo DACA if he wins the Presidency.
Yet, DACAmented youth feel more empowered than ever and vow to keep fighting:
“If they are going to deport me, they’re going to have a very bad taste in their mouth. I’m going to call this person, this lawyer, this organization […] I’m going to do a media circus. I’m going to stay in this country,” said one recipient.