Five Things We Learned About DACA

Looking at DACA After Two Years

On Aug. 12, 2014, The Pew Charitable Trusts hosted a panel discussion with experts to examine the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program two years after its start. DACA has allowed nearly 600,000 unauthorized immigrants who came here as children to live and work legally in the United States. While the federal program provides a two-year protection from deportation, it does not provide legal status or a pathway to citizenship.

The event highlighted the roles that states and localities play in implementing DACA, its impact in key metropolitan areas, and public attitudes toward DACA and immigration in this country. See the presentations and video of the event here.

Five things we learned:

1. Old and new immigrant states are home to DACA recipients.

The numbers of people who have both applied for and received deferred action under DACA vary across states and metropolitan areas. California and Texas have seen the highest levels of applications, but non-traditional immigrant-receiving states, such as Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, also have seen high rates.

2. States and localities are critical to program success.

Even if federal changes to immigration policy do not expressly mandate new roles for states and localities, they will be affected by how the federal government shapes future programs. Eligibility requirements, the length of time states and localities have to prepare, and the availability of federal funding for implementation all can affect the roles states and localities take on.

3. Innovation is occurring at the state and local level.

States and localities can customize implementation of a federal program such as DACA. For example, Illinois has started several programs linked to DACA, including one that provides loans to DACA recipients to cover medical school tuition costs if they agree to work in underserved areas after they graduate.

4. More people want Congress to act on immigration

Polling done in February and July 2014 shows that the percentage of people that say legislative action on immigration is ‘extremely important’ or ‘very important’ has grown from 49 percent to 61 percent.

5. Decision-makers across sectors need data.

Researchers, community-based organizations, and state and local government officials all want more federal data about DACA to inform their own choices about what initiatives they undertake relating to the program.

Pew’s immigration and the states project focuses on the intersection of federal, state, and local immigration laws and policies and the fiscal and economic implications of policies for states and localities. In addition to information on the panel discussion, you can find Pew’s April 2014 report Immigration and Legalization and additional publications, such as a brief on Immigration Enforcement Within the United States on our website.

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