The vast majority of undocumented immigrants who have been given the temporary ability to legally work in the United States are currently employed or attending school — helping them make “significant contributions” to various labor markets — according to a national survey released Tuesday by immigrant advocacy groups.
The survey took a look at 1,308 people who received legal work authorization and deportation relief through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, an 2012 executive action from the Obama administration aimed at assisting undocumented immigrants who grew up here in the United States.
According to the report, 95 percent of survey respondents are currently employed or enrolled in school. And nearly two-thirds of them reported receiving better pay under DACA, with almost half saying they found a job that “better fits my education and training.” Others said they now have a job with better working conditions.
The report also found that DACA recipients have gone into industries like educational and health services, nonprofit work, wholesale and retail trade, and professional and business services. Close to 6 percent of respondents started their own businesses — twice as high as the entrepreneur rate among the general American public.
The impact of DACA recipients on the U.S. economy has been enormous. Average hourly wages for DACA recipients have gone up by 42 percent, roughly an increase from $9.83 per hour to $13.96 per hour, according to the survey. More than half of all respondents said they recently purchased their first car, while 12 percent purchased their first home.
“These large purchases [of vehicles] matter for state revenue, as most states collect between 3 percent and 6 percent of the purchase price in sales tax, along with additional registration and title fees,” study authors wrote. “The added revenue for states comes in addition to the safety benefits of having more licensed and insured drivers on the roads.”
The survey was conducted by UC San Diego Professor Tom Wong, the advocacy group National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the immigrant rights group United We Dream, and the think tank Center for American Progress. (Disclosure: ThinkProgress is an editorially independent website housed within the Center for American Progress.)
This survey echoes findings from a similar report conducted last year, which found that DACA recipients were able to get jobs that better matched their skills and that paid them better wages.
This research helps present a clearer understanding about the impact of the DACA initiative, which from its inception has received sharp criticism from Republicans who say the policy is a show of President Obama’s “executive amnesty overreach.” In fact, Obama’s actions are legal and based on a decades-old legal precedent for the executive branch to exercise prosecutorial discretion for some immigrants who have “non-priority enforcement status.”
About 741,546 undocumented immigrants have benefited under DACA as of mid-September, according to the latest U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data.
However, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump — who typically refers to immigrants in disparaging terms and has promised to build a wall between the United States and Mexico — has indicated that he would dismantle the DACA initiative altogether if he becomes president.