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ISSUE BRIEF: How DACA Has Improved The Lives Of Undocumented Young People

Niouseline St. Jean, originally from Turks and Caicos Islands who lives in the U.S. illegally, reacts as she talks to the media about the new immigration ruling for students at the Miami Dade Community College in Miami, Friday, June 15, 2012. President Barack Obama eased enforcement of immigration laws Friday, offering a chance for hundreds of thousands of younger illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work.

CREDIT: AP/J Pat Carter.

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August marked the two-year anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. Apart from temporarily deferring their deportations from the United States, DACA also gives eligible undocumented youth and young adults access to renewable two-year work permits and Social Security numbers.

Two years out, we now have a clearer picture of the benefits DACA has provided many undocumented young people. It has allowed them to achieve better economic opportunity, attain higher education, enroll in health insurance, and participate more in their local communities.

As of July, 587,366 undocumented young people had received both relief from deportation and a work permit, out of the more than 680,000 undocumented young people who have so far applied for DACA. However, many more can still qualify. Around 1.2 million undocumented young people were immediately eligible for the DACA program when it began, but an additional 426,000 could apply if they met further qualifications. Another 473,000 children, who are currently younger than 15 years old, will age into the program.

Additionally, in the coming months, hundreds of thousands of DACA beneficiaries will need to renew their DACA. Community organizations, families, and DACA beneficiaries themselves will need to make sure that they meet the renewal deadline and fees set by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service. The stakes are high, as failure to renew properly could mean a loss of both work authorization and deferral from deportation.

Despite the challenges of renewing DACA and making sure more qualifying young people apply for it, DACA has significantly affected the lives of undocumented young people, as well as the nation. It is also worth noting that DACA has laid the groundwork for future comprehensive immigration reform by starting the process of registering undocumented young people for potential legal status.

This issue brief discusses the top benefits that DACA provides immigrant youth and takes a look at how the program has helped our economy and society. 

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