By No Labels
As the Senate gets started on a marathon immigration debate, the fate of roughly 800,000 “Dreamers” is at stake.
Dreamers are undocumented immigrants who, through no fault of their own, were brought to the United States illegally as children. As such, many were left in limbo, growing up in a country without the benefit of citizenship. It can make work, school—even simple things like obtaining a driver’s license—extremely difficult.
The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, granted Dreamers protection from deportation for renewable, two-year periods, allowing them to obtain work permits. But the Trump administration has sought to discontinue the program on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.
Now, both the administration and many in Congress say that a legislative solution is in order, giving Dreamers a path to citizenship. But that requires navigating many thorny immigration issues, such as border security and the policy governing how the U.S. grants visas. As the debate continues, here’s what you need to know about Dreamers.
Immigrants make up about 13.5 percent of the United States population, or roughly 43.7 million people, according to the Migration Policy Institute. That includes roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants. Those who participated in the DACA program number about 800,000 and roughly 1.8 million are eligible for DACA.
Nine out of 10 Dreamers were born in Latin American countries, with Mexico accounting for almost 80 percent of the people enrolled in the DACA program, according to a Pew Research Center report in September of last year. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru provided almost 10 percent. By contrast, the Philippines, India, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic each accounted for less than one percent.
About 53 percent of DACA recipients are women, according to the Pew report. The average age is 24 and two thirds of DACA recipients are under 25. All DACA recipients are under 40, because of the way the program was structured. To be eligible, recipients had to enter the U.S. before they were 16 and be under 31 on June 15 of 2012.
California is home to 29 percent and Texas 16 percent of DACA participants, according to Pew. Dreamers did not disperse widely across the country. Rather, two thirds of those involved in the DACA program settled in just 20 metropolitan areas. The area containing Los Angeles, Long Beach and Anaheim has the largest concentration at almost 90,000.
Roughly 90 percent of Dreamers over the age of 16 are employed, according to the New American Economy Research Fund, a group that seeks to increase the number of immigrants in the U.S. workforce. More than 80 percent have graduated high school and taken a college course, and about 17 percent have earned a college degree.
Many Republicans and Democrats in Congress, as well as the president, want to see Dreamers given a path to citizenship—and so do most Americans. In a Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month, 81 percent said Dreamers should remain in the U.S. and apply for citizenship.