New survey emphasizes payoff of education, skills opportunities for immigrant Dreamers

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, August 29, 2017

Results from a new survey of young immigrants highlight the importance of upskilling and education opportunities in facilitating their economic contributions. Survey findings also affirm the key role of middle-skills credentials in helping these job seekers and workers pursue their career goals.

The survey focused on immigrants who were brought to the US as children without authorization, and have subsequently been granted temporary protection under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA recipients receive 2-year renewable work permits and temporary relief from deportation. Since the program was enacted in 2012, nearly 800,000 young people have received DACA status. Just over 3,000 participated in the survey, which was conducted by researcher Tom K. Wong of the University of California at San Diego in collaboration with the non-profits United We Dream, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Center for American Progress.

Among the survey’s major findings:

  • DACA recipients are working. An overwhelming 91 percent of respondents are currently employed, including 54 percent who said that DACA enabled them to get their very first job
  • More than half reported that DACA had allowed them to get a job that “better fits my education and training” (54 percent) and/or “better fits my long-term career goals” (also 54 percent)
  • Many had pursued or are still pursuing education, including 44 percent who are currently enrolled in school

Notably, nearly 1 in 4 survey respondents who are enrolled in school are pursuing a middle-skills credential – 19 percent are pursuing an associate’s degree and another 4 percent are enrolled in a vocational/technical degree or certificate program. (An additional 3 percent of respondents are pursuing a high school diploma or equivalent.)

NSC previously highlighted the important role that DACA recipients play in meeting the demand for middle-skill workers in our fact sheet on Dreamers and Middle-Skill Jobs.

In addition, two-thirds (65 percent) of survey respondents reported that DACA had allowed them to “pursue educational opportunities that I previously could not.” This energy in pursuing educational opportunities also held strong for older DACA recipients; among those aged 25 and above, fully 54 percent agreed with that statement.

The release of the survey comes as the Trump administration is considering the future of the DACA program, which was put into place through executive action and can be discontinued or ended without need for Congressional approval. Ten states have set a September 5 deadline for the Trump administration to end the program or face legal action. Twenty other states have urged the President to preserve the DACA program.

While DACA provides temporary relief, only Congress can provide a path to permanent legal status and eventual US citizenship for Dreamers. A bipartisan DREAM Act was introduced in the Senate last month by Senators Lindsey Graham (R., SC) and Dick Durbin (D., IL).