On June 15, 2012, then-President Barack Obama introduced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—a policy that temporarily defers deportations and provides renewable two-year work permits for up to an estimated 1.9 million eligible unauthorized young adults. Now, five years later, nearly 790,000 eligible youth have been approved for DACA. Shortly after DACA’s implementation in 2012, a team led by Roberto G. Gonzales, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, launched the National UnDACAmented Research Project (NURP), a five-year study aimed at understanding how a diverse cross section of the DACA-eligible population accessed the program and experienced their new status. This carefully drawn sample provides a unique opportunity to understand how DACA is shaping the life trajectories of a wide range of young adult immigrants.
In the past five years, DACA beneficiaries have experienced immediate benefits and improved their outlooks. This issue brief focuses on a group of beneficiaries in the NURP study that most research and media coverage about DACA has overlooked but that is no less important: the hundreds of thousands of DACA beneficiaries without high school or college degrees whom DACA has provided with on-ramps back into education and training programs that have increased their job mobility. Because of DACA, these young people have returned to GED programs, workforce development, certificate programs, and college campuses. DACA’s work authorization has enabled them to take jobs commensurate with their education, incentivizing investments in such programs.