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Top 10 Facts: DACA and DREAMers

  1. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program was created by the Obama administration in 2012. President Donald Trump ordered the end of the program in 2017, but successful court cases kept it going throughout his term. On January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden issued a memorandum directing the secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the attorney general, to take appropriate action to preserve and fortify DACA, consistent with applicable law. To qualify, immigrants had to have come to the United States before turning 16 years old and have never been convicted of a felony, among other requirements.

  2. DACA recipients and “Dreamers” are not interchangeable terms. DACA refers only to those who applied for and received DACA status through the Obama-created program. DREAMers refer to the larger population of unauthorized migrants who arrived as minors to the United States.

  3. As of September 30, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has cumulatively received 3,181,117 requests1 for DACA status. Of those requests, 2,217,286 have been to renew an individual’s DACA status. Since 2021, USCIS accepted 2,046,922 requests and rejected 170,364 requests. Currently, the number of active DACA recipients is approximately 650,000 individuals.

  4. California, Texas, and Illinois had the highest number of DACA applicants. Estimates put the total number of approved applicants from those three states alone at over 1 million.

  5. The majority of DACA applicants are from Mexico. 2.3 million total applications listed Mexico as the country of origin.

  6. As of September 2020, the average age of a DACA recipient is approximately 27 years old.2

  7. El Salvador and Guatemala are the second and third largest groups of DACA recipients, respectively. This does not account for the 2014-2016 surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America—those individuals did not qualify under DACA’s restrictions.

  8. Rescinding DACA and deporting everyone eligible for the program would remove over 2 million working-age individuals from the United States, the vast majority of whom contribute to the U.S. economy. A 2019 report from New American Economy found the DACA-eligible population earned $23.4 billion in 2017, up from almost $19.9 billion in 2015. And despite rhetoric claiming they are a drain on the economy, 93.3% of DACA-eligible individuals were actively employed in 2017.

  9. Fewer workers would mean less economic growth, and therefore less tax revenue. According to research from the Center for American Progress, DACA recipients and their households pay $5.6 billion in federal taxes, and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes, each year. After taxes, DACA recipients and their households have a combined $24 billion in spending power to put back into their communities. Repealing DACA would lead to $60 billion in foregone federal revenue over ten years, according to the Cato Institute. In addition, according to research from the American Action Forum, DACA recipients have contributed approximately $42 billion in annual GDP to the U.S. economy.

  10. According to a 2017 Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy survey, DACA enrollment allowed 60% of respondents access to educational opportunities that previously had been unavailable to them. Rescinding DACA policy would reverse this trend, which would likely put downward pressure on economic growth.

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End Notes:

1 Refers to a request for USCIS to consider deferred removal action for an individual based on guidelines described in the Secretary of Homeland Security’s memorandum issued June 15, 2012.
2 This is the most recent estimating from USCIS, published in data released on January 25, 2021.

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