Prosperity Watch (Issue 51, No. 1)

July 1, 2015

Naturalization ceremonies for immigrants will be held in communities across North Carolina this Independence Day.  For many immigrant parents in North Carolina, a pathway to temporary legal status continues to be blocked despite the President’s Executive Action on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

The full implementation of DAPA, which was announced in November 2014, has been on hold until various legal challenges are resolved.

In the meantime, North Carolina and the country as a whole are missing the opportunity to deepen the integration of immigrant families into their communities and, in so doing, receive substantial economic and social benefits. As many as 3.7 million parents would be eligible under the DAPA program nationally and 5.5 million children stand to benefit, according to estimates by the Center for Immigrant Integration at the University of Southern California.

In North Carolina, there are 162,475 minor children in North Carolina—the vast majority of whom (91 percent) are U.S. citizens—who would benefit from their parents receiving status through the DAPA program. This represents one in every 14 children in the state who could benefit.

Beyond the well-documented benefits to children’s educational and psychological well-being of greater stability in the family and reduction in the fear of deportation, there are also economic benefits. Estimates suggest that temporary legal status would result in an average earnings gain for workers primarily as they move from informal to formal work and are able to better match their skills with job opportunities. Using an average 8.5 percent earnings increase, North Carolina could see workers gain $153.7 million and communities would see stronger consumer demand for goods and services. Beyond the earnings potential, the strengthened economic security of workers would move 5,500 North Carolina children out of poverty.

Reflecting on the American Dream and the potential to deliver greater economic benefits to families and the broader community means considering the role of immigration and the need for pathways to legal status. The DAPA program, building on the success of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, has the potential to deliver increased family stability and economic security thereby strengthening our nation.