Ten Years After DACA Was Launched, Dreamers Are a Force To Be Reckoned With

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With the political change in the U.S. over the past few years, in addition to the pandemic hiatus, people seem to have forgotten about DACA and the limbo in which hundreds of thousands of people live in the country.

When the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was launched in 2012, the beneficiaries were generally young people, around 21 years old, who had come to the country as children, brought by their parents.

At the time, nearly half of the approved applicants were enrolled in high school or college, while 60 percent were participating in the labor force.

According to figures from FWD.us, because many of the young people were in school or just starting their careers, DACA recipients earned a median income of only $4,100 a year.

Ten years later, these Dreamers have built families and careers in the United States.

According to American Community Survey data and FWD.us analysis, today, the overwhelming majority (at least 85 percent) of this initial group of 2012 DACA recipients now participate in the workforce, while a small portion is enrolled in a college or university program.

Nearly all DACA recipients (or 99 percent) have graduated from high school, and about half (at least 47 percent) have attained some college education.

This initial cohort of Dreamers has quintupled their median income since 2012. Many are also starting families: more than one-third (37 percent) of DACA recipients in this cohort have married, and more than 4 in 10 (42 percent) now have at least one child at home.

While DACA has been life-changing for the more than 835,000 young people who have qualified for its work authorizations and protection from deportation at some point in the past ten years, recipients still feel the shadow of uncertainty hanging over their heads as Congress has failed to pass permanent legislative protections.

“Hundreds of thousands of these young people still live day to day facing the overwhelming uncertainty around their future in a country they have called home for decades,” said Reyna Montolla, founder of Aliento.

In fact, FWD.us estimates that as many as 600,000 people who do not currently have DACA protection are eligible to receive the policy’s benefits but cannot process their application since U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen vacated the 2012 DACA policy memo in July 2021.

Although current recipients can continue to renew their DACA status, the dire reality is that DACA could be struck down in a new court action, as the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hears the case on July 6 and will likely rule on the DACA policy later this year.

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