Aug. 12, 2013
Contact: Michelle Mittelstadt
MPI Study Finds Wide State, Country-of-Origin Variation in Application Rates among Unauthorized Immigrant Youth for Deferred Action Program
WASHINGTON — As the one-year anniversary of the Obama administration’s program providing a temporary reprieve from deportation for qualified unauthorized immigrant youth draws near, a new analysis by the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy finds wide variation in application rates across states and national-origin groups for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The study also finds that 49 percent of the currently eligible population has applied to date.
Based on an innovative new methodology to analyze U.S. Census Bureau data, MPI estimates that up to 1.9 million unauthorized immigrants under age 31 are potentially eligible for DACA — with 1.09 million currently meeting the age, education, length of residence and other criteria; 423,000 appearing to fulfill all but the education requirements; and 392,000 who are too young to apply now but would become eligible once they reach age 15 if they stay in school or obtain a high school degree or equivalent.
DACA, which was implemented on August 15, 2012, offers work authorization as well as a two-year reprieve from deportation for eligible unauthorized immigrants who entered the United States before the age of 16; meet length of residence, education and other requirements; and were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reported that as of June 30, 2013, it had accepted 537,662 applications for processing, of which 400,562 had been approved and 5,383 denied to date.
A new issue brief published today, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals at the One-Year Mark: A Profile of CurrentlyEligible Youth and Applicants, provides MPI’s most up-to-date estimates of the current and prospective DACA population by educational attainment, English proficiency, state of residence, country of origin, age, gender, labor force participation, poverty and parental status.
Using USCIS figures and the MPI analysis of Census data, MPI researchers estimate that 49 percent of the currently eligible population nationwide had applied as of June 30, with pronounced differences in uptake rates by state. North Carolina represents the high, with an estimated 74 percent of its currently eligible youth population applying, while New York and Florida are substantially lower at 34 percent and 35 percent respectively. California and Texas, which together account for 45 percent of all applications accepted by USCIS, are closer to the national average, with 49 percent and 54 percent respectively of currently eligible youth applying.
“There are a number of potential explanations for state variation in application rates, among them differences in immigrant youths’ workforce participation and the relative importance of obtaining work authorization, public transportation options and the relative urgency of obtaining a driver’s license, the climate of reception for immigrants and availability and cost of legal assistance to navigate the DACA application process,” said Michael Fix, co-director of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.
Among MPI’s other findings regarding the population currently eligible for DACA:
- There are significant variations in application rates by national-origin groups. Individuals from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras account for 68 percent of the currently eligible population when looking at the ACS data but represent 85 percent of those who had applied as of June 30. Youth from the Philippines and the Dominican Republic appear to have particularly low application rates: 16 percent and 14 percent respectively. Chinese youth are also notably absent: while China ranks ninth in MPI’s estimates of the currently eligible population, it was not among the top 20 countries for which USCIS has provided a breakdown.
- 266,000 (or 24 percent) of the currently eligible are enrolled in high school. An additional 482,000 (44 percent) have earned a high school diploma or equivalent, but have not obtained a college degree and are not enrolled in college. About 10 percent have completed an associate degree or higher, and an additional 22 percent are in college.
- Most currently eligible youth have strong English language skills, reflecting their long-term U.S. residence and schooling. An estimated 60 percent are bilingual and 9 percent speak only English. The remaining 31 percent are limited English proficient.
- 35 percent live in families with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, and 66 percent in families with incomes below 200 percent of federal poverty.
- 55 percent are already in the workforce.
- 11 percent are parents with children living in the home.
Of the 423,000 individuals who meet the age criteria but appear to be currently ineligible because they are not enrolled in school and do not have a high school diploma or equivalent, MPI estimates 58 percent have completed some high school, while 42 percent have not completed any high school grades. Over two-thirds (69 percent) are limited English proficient, and 71 percent are in the labor force. USCIS has not publicly released educational attainment or enrollment characteristics for DACA applicants. In light of the possibility that some share of the 423,000 has enrolled in a qualifying adult education, literacy or training program, an alternative approach that examines the total ages 15-30 population, regardless of educational attainment, suggests 36 percent of the entire DACA population has applied.
"Our analysis demonstrates this population faces several barriers to meeting DACA’s requirements. In addition to lower educational attainment, these youth have lower English proficiency and lower incomes than their currently eligible peers and are more likely to have work and parenting responsibilities,” said Margie McHugh, co-director of the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “All these factors may create substantial barriers to participation in adult education or career training, preventing this group of unauthorized youth from meeting the DACA requirements — and leaving them in unauthorized status absent any changes in U.S. immigration policy. Expanding the availability of adult education, literacy and workforce programs shown to be effective with such youth would be key to maximizing DACA participation.”
The brief is available at: www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/CIRbrief-DACAatOneYear.pdf .
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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more on MPI, please visit www.migrationpolicy.org.