Daca: The Research Made On It And Why It Should Stay
The overall literature that has been written on individuals qualifying for DACA (Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals) have covered a conglomerate of topics relating to the life experience of these undocumented individuals, including the educational experience of these students in higher education, the challenges and obstacles that individuals under DACA have had to overcome, work opportunities, the methods these individuals use persevere through challenges, and the questions they have in regards to their futures in the United States. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, DACA is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status. (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, 2017).
It has been found that just like immigrants with legal status, undocumented students tend to be first generation college-goers from low-income families, who struggle to graduate (Suarez-Orozco, et al. 2015). However, undocumented students face additional obstacles to college enrollment, attendance, and graduation. This identifies that DACA individuals may struggles with finances as they attend college. These individuals first attend college under the threat of deportation for themselves and their family members, which makes institutional interactions intimidating (Suarez-Orozco et al. 2015). Next, the cost of attending college is higher for undocumented students because they do not qualify for government financial aid, thus having to pay out of pocket for their tuition. In addition, there are limited employment options because of their undocumented status. Undocumented youth also face greater pressure to contribute to household finances because they come from families from lower economic status (Gonzales, 2011). They are at greater risk of leaving school early for that reason. Finally, the returns to education are uncertain for undocumented youth because they cannot legally work. Thus, undocumented youth are less likely to enroll in college than their peers with legal status (Greenman and Hall 2013).
DACA: Definition, Research Results, Education, Statistics and Understanding
According to the U.S. Department of Immigration (2018), the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an immigration option for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16. Although DACA does not provide a pathway to lawful permanent residence, it does provide temporary protection from deportation, work permit authorization, and the ability to apply for a social security number.
Most of the people who are eligible for deferred action under DACA are people who entered the United States other than at a port of entry at an age where they were too young to be held responsible for their own actions. There is currently no mechanism in current law that allows individuals who qualify for DACA to become citizens or even permanent residents, as DACA does not act as a bridge to legal status. (U.S. Department of Immigration, 2018). This particular point underlines the issues with the current law in government and outlines the stress that individuals under DACA feel. (U.S. Department of Immigration, 2018).
There has been some court policies over the past 2 years that have threatened to get rid of DACA. The threat of DACA being taken away from individuals who have benefited from DACA for years puts their lives on hold. In Trump’s first speech as candidate, he threatened to ‘immediately terminate President Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration.’ (CNN, 2018) The Trump Administration has made orders to Congress. Most recently in lew of the government shutdown, Trump proposed in exchange for 5.7 million dollars to build a border wall, he create extensions for existing protections for undocumented individuals under DACA currently. The government chosen not to except the exchange the bid. (Williams, 2019).
In January of 2019, Trump administration had petitioned the nation’s highest court to take up the constitutionality of the president’s attempt to repeal DACA, however he court decided to neither grant nor deny the administration’s request, meaning that the issue will continue to proceed through lower courts. (CNN, 2019)
Not much is for certain, except that the fate of the DACA program is uncertain. This precedent has no doubt brought fear into the lives of individuals granted DACA. (NOT sure if this part above goes in the lit review or the other parts of the paper, Professor)
College attendance is another topic of research that has been studied in regards to DACA. These efforts have shown mixed results in the findings. It has been shown that by providing access to a wider set of jobs and offering a safenet from deportation, DACA increases the returns to schooling and may incentivize current undocumented students to complete their degrees promptly. (Gonzalez, 2011). Additionally, DACA may motivate undocumented youth to invest in human capital by reducing the feeling of being limited or the sense of living a life in limbo (Gonzales, 2011). On the other hand, there are also reasons to believe that DACA may increase college dropout rates for undocumented students. Nearly 70% of families headed by undocumented parents subsist at or near the poverty line (Amuedo-Dorantes and Antman 2016; Gonzales, Terriquez and Ruszczyk 2014) These family may be typically employed in low-wage, unstable jobs which offer no benefits such as health insurance, sick leave or over-time (Donato et al. 2008; Hall, Greenman and Farkas 2010). Thus, families headed by undocumented parents commonly rely on all working-age members to contribute to family income. By providing access to the legal segment of the job market, DACA presents an opportunity to increase household earnings, which raises the opportunity cost of attending school. As a result, DACA status may lead unauthorized college students to drop out of school in order to take advantage of the enhanced earning opportunities. Ultimately it is shown that DACA increases the opportunities for undocumented students by means of work opportunities and higher education. However it should be noted that dropout rate may be increased because of family need and low-socioeconomic status.
Another scholarly article has discovered how undocumented individuals using DACA have overcome challenges in their higher educational experiences. According to the article, “The educational experiences of DACA recipients” in the Journals of Latinos and Education by Casas, journals using semi-structured interviews were used to analyze the educational experience of individuals on DACA. One specific study, aimed to examine the educational experiences and understand the protective factors contributing to the successes of DACA recipients enrolled in college at the University of Nevada, Reno. Overall, interviews indicated that participants’ educational journeys were marked by challenges that were often mitigated by internal perseverance, strength, and motivation to succeed and bring a better future to their families (Casas, 2019). Additionally, implications for bettering the experiences of DACA recipients were discussed. These actions leaned in favor of more administrative help from campus counselors and having a safe space to discuss concerns about college and their personal life. (Casas, 2019). It was shown that while DACA has facilitated more opportunities for undocumented immigrants, this group continues to face obstacles while pursuing their educational aspirations.
According to Venkataramani and O’Brien (2017) economic opportunities and protection from deportation for undocumented immigrants, as offered by DACA, could confer large mental health benefits to such individuals. This may be an indication that student and individuals working under the protections of DACA may improve mental health outcomes, however more research is needed to substantiate findings. It has also been shown according to Zong (2018), DACA holders are much less likely than young unauthorized immigrants who are ineligible for deferred action to work in construction jobs and are more likely to work in office support jobs, showing that DACA can be a means to occupational mobility. This evidence shows that DACA is a means of upward mobility to better-paying jobs with little occupational hazard, thus possibly bettering the quality of life for undocumented immigrants.
According to research done by the Pew Research Center (2017) of the 690,000 individuals who enrolled in DACA in September of 2017, approximately 548,000, or 79.4% identified their country of origin as Mexico. Women make up the majority of the individuals on DACA at 53%. Other statistics show that woman on DACA are more likely to be enrolled in college than their male counterparts. (Zong, 2017).
Limitations in Research
The overall understanding of the higher education experiences of undocumented immigrant youth is limited. There are multiple ways researchers have put into effect to gather data in regards to undocumented individuals in this country who use DACA to remain in the country and attend higher education. However, it has been shown that trying to research the academic trajectories and outcomes are hampered by data constraints limitations. First, the U.S. Census and most large-scale, national surveys do not contain information on immigrants’ legal status. Due to this it has been impossible to identify undocumented individuals. As a result, researchers need to rely on imputations of undocumented status. These imputation methods have evolved considerably over the last few decades (Passel and Cohn 2009, Warren and Warren 2013). However, some authors have shown that these imputations can lead to large bias in some applications. Recent studies either treat all foreign born residents, including those who are legally authorized to be in the United States as undocumented or treat students who hold student visas or who have refugee or asylum status as undocumented (Greenman, 2013). Other researchers have employed online surveys as a tool for accessing the undocumented student population, but voluntary web surveys are very likely to suffer from selection biased, potentially excluding students who are less politically active or who are lower-income (Suarez Orozco, 2015; Gonzales, 2014). Therefore, much of our knowledge of the experiences of undocumented college students have been informed by qualitative studies (Gonzales, 2011) that have tended to focus on specific populations (i.e., Mexicans) attending selective 4-year colleges.
The second important limitation is the lack of longitudinal data. Longitudinal data allow for the measurement of within-sample change over time, enable the measurement of the duration of events, and record the timing of various events. (U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). Most studies rely on cross-sectional surveys, like the Current Population Survey (CPS) or the American Community Survey (ACS). Undocumented youth who enroll in higher education tend to be more positively selected for these surveys; they are academically gifted, motivated and resilient individuals with exceptionally high educational aspirations (Conger and Chellman 2015; Terriquez 2014; Contereras 2009). These characteristics likely correlate strongly with decisions to seek employment or to enroll in college. Failing to account for these unobserved differences would likely introduce omitted variable bias. As a result, many of individuals opinions and viewpoints are not addressed in the research.
The existing empirical analyses of the effects of DACA on the educational outcomes of undocumented youth face the same data limitations that all quantitative efforts to study the undocumented population face. Pope (2016) and Amuedo-Dorantes and Antman (2017) use data from the ACS and CPS, respectively. Lacking information on immigrants’ legal status, they assume that non-citizens in a given age range are undocumented. Both studies find positive effects of DACA on employment but mixed results of effects on schooling. Where Amuedo- Dorantes and Antman (2017) finds that DACA reduces college enrollment among probable DACA eligible students. Other studies have relied on web-based surveys of undocumented college students to explore the effect of DACA on college outcomes and find that DACA allows recipients to pursue educational opportunities that they previously could not (Wong, 2015; Gonzales, 2016). However, respondents of online surveys are self-selected and likely to be higher achieving and more motivated than the general population of undocumented students. Thus, it is unclear whether the findings based on online surveys can be generalized to the entire population of undocumented college students. (Not sure if the above should go in the methodology or not)
Overall, the literature shows that although many individuals qualify for DACA, Mexican immigrants are one of the largest demographics found under DACA. The data also reveals that there are many limitations of some of the larger scale, online surveys targeting undocumented individuals under DACA. As part of my research, I will utilize personal interview of a Mexican immigrant who is a part of the DACA program and integrate her personal experiences as an undocumented student and worker into the analysis. Individuals under DACA, particularly women in school, feel the pressure to work and earn their degree all the while in fear that their stay in the United States will be cut short. I believe this is an important experience to be researched, especially since Mexican women are large demographic of individuals under DACA.
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