August 15 marks five years since the first DACA recipients applied to the groundbreaking program
RALEIGH (August 14, 2017) — Tomorrow, August 15, marks five years since the U.S. began accepting applications for the groundbreaking Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA has been transformative for the 1.5 million young immigrants – 49,712 of whom reside in North Carolina – who arrived in the U.S. as minors. It has also been instrumental in boosting beneficiaries’ wages, employment opportunities, and education, all while helping North Carolina’s economy, according to a new report from the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.
“DACA has been a good first step in addressing our outdated immigration system,” said Victoria Crouse, author of the report. “By providing beneficiaries with temporary work permits, DACA has opened the door for beneficiaries to access better paying jobs and pursue careers in their areas of interest, and has boosted the state’s economy in the process.”
DACA, introduced by President Barack Obama in 2012, provides temporary protection from deportation and work authorization, and has led to an increase in employment opportunities and participation in higher education among many beneficiaries, the report said. Beneficiaries’ wages have improved as a result of having DACA status – one study found that among beneficiaries who were sampled, the average hourly wages increased by 45 percent after receiving DACA status, with 69 percent of recipients obtaining a job with better pay and 57 percent being able to help their family financially as a result of receiving higher wages.
Despite the benefits, there are several shortcomings to DACA, the report said. Research finds many DACA beneficiaries still experience economic hardship despite their access to more job opportunities, and LGBTQ beneficiaries facing added barriers of discrimination due to their identities. In North Carolina, DACA beneficiaries also face significant barriers to higher education because they are required to pay out-of-state tuition rates and are not eligible for federal financial aid. The report lays out ways policymakers can strengthen outcomes among beneficiaries such as providing in-state tuition, access to occupational and professional licenses, and most significantly, a pathway to citizenship as the policy provides only temporary relief from deportation for most participants.
Unfortunately, the recent wave of anti-immigrant sentiment among legislators and federal administrators has threatened the continuation of the DACA program. The policy backlash against the undocumented immigrant community has led to both the permanent separation of families due to deportations and the threat of everyday harassment in public spaces.
“Ending DACA and introducing a mass deportation policy would not only be inhumane, it would also translate into significant economic losses for our state,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of the Budget & Tax Center. “North Carolina would lose a generation of thinkers, creators and doers by eliminating the program, as well as opportunities to invest in all North Carolinians.”
If the program was eliminated and participants were removed from the labor market, North Carolina would experience a $1.1 billion annual GDP loss, the report said, particularly given the central role that immigrants and children of immigrants will play in growing our labor force in the years to come. Immigrants and their children are projected to be the primary drivers of growth in the working-age population through the year 2035.