Immigration Facts: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Article author: 
Audrey Singer and Nicole Prchal Svajlenka
Article publisher: 
Article date: 
14 August 2013
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 

As Congress debates the fate of the “DREAMers”—those undocumented immigrants [illegal aliens] who arrived in the United States as children—the one-year anniversary of the start of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program occurs on August 15. The DACA program—an initiative of the Obama administration—does not provide permanent lawful status to applicants. However, it confers two important advantages to approved applicants: a temporary suspension of deportation and the authorization to work in the United States.1 The program also provides researchers and policymakers a glimpse into the “DREAMer” cohort.

Some 900,000 individuals were estimated to be immediately eligible for deferred action at the date of the announcement.

This analysis of DACA applications, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), offers insights into the size, demographics, geographic distribution, age, and year of arrival of applicants. The Brookings FOIA data include information on the first 465,509 applications, corresponding to the period August 15, 2012 to March 22, 2013, and accounting for 87 percent of all accepted applications through June 30, 2013. DACA applications are accepted on a rolling basis and there is no deadline. The statistics presented here, therefore, represent a snapshot, and are not final. The first finding below uses statistics directly from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on applications filed between August 15, 2012 and June 30, 2013, and the remainder of the findings are derived from the Brookings FOIA data.

To qualify for the DACA program, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Have arrived in the United States prior to age 16Have continuously resided in the United States without legal status since June 15, 2007
  • Be less than age 31 as of June 15, 2012 and at least age 15 at application (unauthorized immigrants under 15 but in removal proceedings are also eligible to apply)
  • Be currently enrolled in school, have graduated high school or obtained a general development certificate (GED), or be an honorably discharged veteran
  • Have not been convicted of a felony or multiple or serious misdemeanors and not pose a threat to national security or public safety

1. More than half a million people have applied for DACA through June 2013; 72 percent have been approved, while just 1 percent have been denied. The majority of the remaining applications are still under review...

Estimates of the potentially eligible population calculated by the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) using age, country of birth, educational attainment and enrollment, and year of entry to the United States show approximately 936,000 immigrants were immediately eligible at the time of the announcement of the program. Eligibility criteria such as continuous residence and criminal history are much harder to approximate. Nonetheless, taken at face value, an estimated 59 percent of eligible individuals have applied...

2. The vast majority of applicants were born in Mexico, and 25 other countries of birth have over 1,000 applications.

The Brookings FOIA data show that DACA applicants were born in 192 countries, and that there are 25 countries with at least 1,000 applicants who together accounted for over 96 percent of all applicants. In total, 74.9 percent of applicants were born in Mexico, followed by El Salvador (4.0 percent), Honduras (2.7 percent), Guatemala (2.5 percent)..

5. Nearly three-quarters of DACA applicants have lived in the United States for at least ten years and nearly one-third were age five or younger at arrival...