Immigration

Despite Trashing Attempts by Right-Wingers, DACA Kids Are the Young People Most Parents Want Their Children to Be

Six snapshots of who DACA recipients are: strivers, hard-working, responsible, honest, vetted—and more than half are women.

Photo Credit: Gili Getz / Movimiento Cosecha

Within hours of President Trump announcing he would end the DACA program, some right-wingers took to the airwaves saying were fed up with being told to have sympathy for these youths and families that the federal government was poised to break up.

That was the case on CNN, when host Don Lemon had to cut off John Fredericks, a right-wing talk show host, who said that most Americans struggling to get through their days were tired of hearing about the 800,000 young people who didn’t have visas to be here.

That messy exchange raises the question, who are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program? Beyond not being U.S. citizens but having lived here all their lives, what follows are a half-dozen points and snapshots detailing what it means to be a DACA recipient, where their families originated, their gender and family breakdowns, educational experiences, and work and career paths.

Beyond the cruelty and immorality of traumatizing them and upending their lives and families if Congress does not act to grant them legal residence status, what emerges is DACA recipients are young people playing by the rules and trying to build lives that contribute to society. Take a look:    

1. Who Are Dreamers? To be eligible for DACA, according to UnitedWeDream.org, an undocumented immigrant must meet a dozen thresholds. They must be born on or after June 16, 1981. They must pass a background check. They must come to the United States before their 16th birthday. They must not have lawful immigration status and be at least 15 years old. They must be in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007. They must be present in the country on June 15, 2012, and on every day since August 15, 2012. They must graduate from high school or have a GED certificate. Or they must be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or armed forces, or currently attend school on the date he or she files a DACA application. They must not have been convicted of a felony or a significant misdemeanor offense, or three or more misdemeanor offenses. They must not have posed a threat to national security or public safety. They must pay $465 for filling fees and fees for biometric services, including fingerprints and photos. So far, DACA youths and their families have paid more than $420 million in fees to the government.

2. How many DACA youth are there? Through March, 1,586,657 people nationally have been approved, and of those, 799,077 have been approved for renewals, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), reported AZCentral.com, an Arizona-based outlet for Gannett. California has the most, with 222,795 initial DACA recipients, followed by 124,300 in Texas, 42,376 in Illinois, according to USCIS. Slightly more than half of DACA recipients are women, according to UnitedWeDream.org. That is an unusually high percentage of women for immigrant populations, which tend to be more male-dominated, their researchers said. About 9 percent of DACA recipients told researchers they were members of the LGBTQ community.

3. What countries are DACA recipients from? Nationally, 92 percent are Hispanic or Latino, with the rest being Asian, Black, white and other. The majority of DACA recipients (about 78 percent) are from Mexico, according to the USCIS. That is followed by El Salvador, with about 4 percent, then Guatemala and Honduras, both at about 2 percent. Other countries of origin, including South Korea, Brazil, Jamaica, Poland, Pakistan and India, among many others, account for less than 1 percent each. 

4. Their family members are often U.S. citizens. Most are in families where their relatives, including siblings, children or parents, are U.S. citizens. According to UnitedWeDream, 3.5 percent have a citizen parent; 78 percent have an undocumented parent; 10.6 percent have a parent who is a lawful permanent resident. One quarter, 25 percent, have a citizen child; 59.5 percent have a citizen sibling; and 51.4 percent have a citizen family member. The typical family size for DACA recipients is four people, the researchers found.

5. DACA recipients often struggling to get higher education. About 30 percent have “some college,” while 15 percent have a four-year degree, and 13 percent have a two-year degree, UnitedWeDream reported. Only 3 percent have graduate or professional degrees. “Since they received DACA, 30 percent of survey respondents returned to school,” their research said. “This is consistent with other surveys that have shown that DACA can help ease some of the financial and legal burdens that undocumented immigrant youth face when pursuing higher education.”

6. They are working, attending school, and buying cars and homes. The top 10 most popular fields of work for DACA recipients, according to UnitedWeDream, are: health care (22.5 percent); business and financial (14 percent); education (9.2 percent); community and social service (6.5 percent); computers and technology (6.5 percent); life, physical and social sciences (5.7 percent); architecture and engineering (4.7 percent); arts, entertainment and media (4.7 percent); legal (4.3 percent) and office and administrative support (3 percent).

According to a FastCompany.com report, based on data from the Pew Research Center, University of California San Diego academics, UnitedWeDream, National Immigration Law Center and Center for American Progress, here are more economic thumbnails:

• 95% of DACA recipients are working or in school, according to a 2016 survey.

• 54% of DACA recipients recently bought their first car, according to a 2016 survey.

• 12% bought a home.

• 22% of DACA recipients work in education and health services, the highest of any other industry, according to a 2016 survey.

• DACA helped raise wages: According to a 2016 survey, recipients made an average wage of $13.96 an hour, compared to $9.83 an hour before DACA.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

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