MPI Study: Who Are the DREAMers and How Many Are There?

On August 15th, USCIS implemented a program to provide temporary relief from deportation, known as deferred action, to undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children, and who meet certain eligibility criteria. [See USCIS Moving Forward With Deferred Action for ‘DREAMers,’ MurthyDotCom (31.Jul.2012).]

When the deferred action program was first announced, on June 15, it was initially thought that about 1.39 million people would be eligible. Now that DHS has outlined its eligibility guidelines in greater detail, that estimate has been revised upward to 1.76 million people, according to statistics released by the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan Washington think tank. [See Relief from Deportation: Demographic Profile of the DREAMers Potentially Eligible under the Deferred Action Policy, by Jeanne Batalova and Michelle Mittelstadt, Migration Policy Institute (August 2012).]

According to MPI, the number of potential applicants was increased to reflect DHS guidelines that will allow “youth lacking a high school or GED degree…to apply for deferred action as long as they have re-enrolled by the date of their application.” This could add about 350,000 applicants to the number originally expected. Other demographic highlights of the MPI study include:

  • Beneficiaries by Age – About 72 percent (1.26 million) of the potential beneficiaries are currently eligible to apply for deferred action; the remaining 28 percent may be eligible in the future, once they meet age, education, residency, and other criteria.
  • State-level estimates – California heads the list of states with the most potentially-eligible applicants, at 460,000 people. Rounding out the top five are Texas (210,000), Florida (140,000), New York (110,000), and Illinois (90,000).
  • Educational attainment – Approximately 800,000 DREAMers are currently enrolled in K-12 education; 390,000 are high school graduates or hold GEDs; 80,000 have a college degree; about 140,000 are in college, and the remaining 350,000 have no high school degree, and are not enrolled in school.
  • College Graduates – Of the 80,000 potential applicants who have college degrees, 48 percent have associates’ degrees, 44 percent hold bachelors’ degrees, and 8 percent have advanced degrees.
  • Region of Birth – 74 percent of potential applicants were born in Mexico or Central America; 11 percent in the Caribbean and South America; 9 percent in Asia; 6 percent are from the rest of the world.
  • Gender – 48 percent of potential beneficiaries are women, 52 percent are men.
  • Employment – 58 percent of potential beneficiaries, age 15 and over, are employed or actively looking for work.

Given the program’s incentives to stay in school and stay out of legal trouble, this will not only benefit the DREAMers, but American society as a whole. Helping these immigrants reach their full potential is an important step toward greater fairness – after all, they were brought here as children, and had no say in the matter – and it would be self-defeating to waste their potential in an attempt to punish them for their parents’ actions. Hats off to MPI for providing a fascinating statistical portrait of these young immigrants. Now that they have begun to come out of the shadows, we will see what the numbers really look like – before November’s election and after.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.