Potential Beneficiaries of the Obama Administration’s Executive Action Programs Deeply Embedded in US Society

Potential Beneficiaries of the Obama Administration’s Executive Action Programs Deeply Embedded in US Society


The Obama administration has developed two broad programs to defer immigration enforcement actions against undocumented persons living in the United States: (1) Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA); and (2) Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The DACA program, which began in August 2012, was expanded on November 20, 2014. DAPA and the DACA expansion (hereinafter referred to as “DACA-plus”) are currently under review by the US Supreme Court and subject to an active injunction.

This paper offers a statistical portrait of the intended direct beneficiaries of DAPA, DACA, and DACA-plus. It finds that potential DAPA, DACA, and DACA-plus recipients are deeply embedded in US society, with high employment rates, extensive US family ties, long tenure, and substantial rates of English-language proficiency. The paper also notes various groups that would benefit indirectly from the full implementation of DAPA and DACA or, conversely, would suffer from the removal of potential beneficiaries of these programs. For example, all those who would rely on the retirement programs of the US government will benefit from the high employment rates and relative youth of the DACA population, while many US citizens who rely on the income of a DAPA-eligible parent would fall into poverty or extreme poverty should that parent be removed from the United States.

This paper offers an analysis of potential DAPA and DACA beneficiaries. In an earlier study, the authors made the case for immigration reform based on long-term trends related to the US undocumented population, including potential DAPA and DACA beneficiaries (Warren and Kerwin 2015). By contrast, this paper details the degree to which these populations have become embedded in US society. It also compares persons eligible for the original DACA program with those eligible for DACA-plus.

As stated, the great majority of potential DAPA and DACA recipients enjoy strong family ties, long tenure, and high employment rates in the United States. Nearly one-half of the DAPA population and far higher percentages of the two DACA populations speak English well, very well, or exclusively. An unknown, albeit not insubstantial percentage of both the DAPA- and DACA-eligible may already qualify for an immigration benefit or relief that would put them on a path to permanent residency and US citizenship. These mostly low-wage populations have relatively high rates of poverty and low rates of health insurance. Not surprisingly, the educational attainment, school enrollment rates, and English-language proficiency of the DACA-eligible substantially exceed those of the DAPA-eligible. Both populations enjoy high levels of computer and Internet access.

The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) derived its estimates on the DAPA- and DACA-eligible from statistics on the foreign-born population collected in the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), as described in Warren (2016). It first derived detailed estimates for all undocumented residents, and then used the characteristics of this population (e.g., year of entry, age at entry, etc.) to tabulate the numbers of those who would be eligible for DAPA and DACA in 2014, which is the most recent year available.


Author Names

Donald Kerwin, Robert Warren

Journal Journal on Migration and Human Security
Date of Publication 2016
Pages 16-28
DOI 10.1177/233150241600400102
Volume 4
Issue Number 1