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Dreamers’ Sense of Belonging Fell 15% in 2021, Finds Boundless Report

May 24, 2022

US Exchange Students

As the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program enters its tenth year, a Boundless report analyzes public data to get a picture of who DACA recipients are, as well as the challenges and opportunities they face.

Since its inception in June 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has provided temporary relief from deportation as well as work authorization to undocumented young people across the United States.

As of December 2021, the end of the first quarter of the 2022 fiscal year, and the most recent quarter for which USCIS has released data, there were approximately 611,470 DACA recipients. Of these over 600,000 people, more than half are female, and two-thirds are between the ages of 20 and 30 years old.

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Using data from the 2021 National DACA Study, Boundless found that about a third are currently in school, with the majority pursuing a bachelor’s degree and some an associate’s or master’s degree. Almost 70% had, or were on track to obtaining, a bachelor’s degree or higher at the time of the survey.

Almost 80% of DACA recipients also reported being employed after their DACA application and attendant work authorization was approved, compared to less than half that number prior to approval. Receiving a grant of DACA also doubled recipients’ average income, from about $11/hour before DACA to nearly $23/hour after, which brought the average annual income for a DACA household on par with the median U.S. household.

This increased economic integration and financial stability also led to greater feelings of social inclusion and participation, with DACA recipients reporting increased feelings of belonging following receiving an approval. However, the numbers declined dramatically from 2020 to 2021: while 60% of DACA recipients reported increased feelings of integration and inclusion, in 2021 that number fell to only 45% of those surveyed.

The pandemic and the political climate have also both had an impact, with over 200,000 DACA recipients serving as frontline workers during the pandemic, while many were denied stimulus checks during business closures and shutdowns because they filed their federal income tax returns with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers instead of U.S. social security numbers.

The lawsuits surrounding DACA also continue, following former President Trump’s effort to terminate the program in 2017. At this time, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cannot approve any new DACA applications filed after July 16, 2021. However applicants who were already granted DACA prior to that date may continue to file renewals of their DACA and work authorization.

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