Five Things We Know About DACA on its First Anniversary

By Von Diaz Aug 14, 2013

The Brookings Institute released a report today looking at the last year of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a band aid approach to addressing immigration reform for the estimated 1.6 million undocumented immigrant youth living in the U.S. DACA is by no means a permanent solution, but it does offer temporary reprieve from deportation and work authorization.

Nearly half of the estimated 936,000 eligible immigrants have applied and received DACA, and with immigration unlikely to pass this year it’s a significant option for many DREAMers. While the report is just a snapshot that doesn’t go into the program’s successes or failures, it does provide some insight into DREAMer demographics. A few things we know so far about DACA applicants: 

1. More than half of those eligible have applied, but applications have been on the decline.

USCIS has received 557,412 applications between August 2012 and June 2013. Of those, 74.5 percent have been approved, 24.5 percent are still being reviewed, and only 1 percent has been declined. 

To qualify for DACA, applicants must meet strict requirements around age, amount of time they’ve lived in the U.S., current school enrollment, and a clean criminal record, in addition to the $465 application fee. The numerous requirements are prohibitive for many immigrants, and according to the Brookings Institute older DREAMers may have a tougher time meeting all the requirements. In particular, proving continuous residence in the U.S. since 2007 involves documentation that may be challenging for older immigrants or those who have moved frequently. 

2. The vast majority of applicants are from Latin America, but the accepted applicant pool is a little more diverse.

Although DACA applicants hail from 192 countries, nearly all of them come from 25 predominantly Latin American countries. Mexican immigrants dominate the DACA applicant pool at 74.9 percent, with immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador also showing high numbers.  

Despite the high number of Mexican applicants, immigrants with higher-than-average approvals ratings are more varied. Applicants from South Korea, Philippines, Peru, India, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil have higher approval ratings, whereas only 57 percent of Mexican-born applicants have been approved. And some countries have lower-than-average approval ratings, such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, and Venezuela. 

3. Applications reflect migration patterns

Perhaps not surprisingly, California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Florida have the largest number of DACA applicants. Over the past ten years these states have also had the fastest-growing immigrant populations in the country, and have ranked highest in number of undocumented immigrants. East Coast states have more diverse applicant demographics, with New York being the most widely varied in applicant countries of origin. 

4. Most applicants are under 21, and are evenly split male and female

While one-third of DACA applicants were between 15-18 years old, 54 percent were younger than 21 years old. There are only slight deviations between men and women across age groups and states, with women trending only slightly older overall. 

5. They were young when they arrived and have been here for a while

Nearly three-quarters of applicants have been in the U.S. for more than 10 years, and about one-third were younger than 5-years-old when the arrived. The period from 1994–2001 had the highest influx of immigrants to the U.S. over the past two decades.