Results from a Nationwide Survey of DACA Recipients Illustrate the Program’s Impact

By Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., @twong002; Kelly K. Richter, Ignacia Rodriguez, Philip E. Wolgin

July 9, 2015

SOURCE: AP/Alex Brandon

DREAMers and parents take an oath in a mock citizenship ceremony in Washington, D.C., on July 10, 2013.

In June, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program—which allows eligible unauthorized immigrants who entered the country at a young age to apply for temporary deferrals of deportations and work permits—marked its third anniversary. To date, roughly665,000 people have received DACA. A number of early surveys illustrate that DACA has improved the lives of its recipients, and economic impact analyses have found that wages rise as recipients gain work authorization, get jobs that better match their skills and training, and invest more in higher education.

Following up on these studies, the National Immigration Law Center, or NILC, the Center for American Progress, and Tom K. Wong of the University of California, San Diego, conducted a national survey to analyze the economic and educational outcomes of DACA recipients. The survey is part of a broader ongoing study by Wong called the Administrative Relief Impact and Implementation Study. The results add to a growing body of research that illustrates how DACA significantly affects recipients. (see Figure 1) A full 96 percent of respondents are currently employed or in school. Many are getting better, higher-paying jobs than they had before they received DACA. They are buying cars at high rates, and many are pursuing educational opportunities previously unavailable to them.


The survey is also one of the first to systematically quantify the wage effect of having deferred action. The data show that DACA has increased recipients’ average hourly wages 45 percent. Given that higher wages translate into more tax revenue and more economic growth, these findings suggest that DACA benefits all Americans.


The survey* was fielded online during June 2015 with a sample size of 546 respondents. Of these respondents, we can be confident that 467 are DACA recipients. Following the standards set forth by Wong and Valdiva in 2014, the survey included multiple features to enhance confidence in the validity of its findings. First, it included a unique validation test for undocumented status, which excluded some individuals from the sample based on their responses to questions about their immigration history. Moreover, no financial incentives for participation were provided; this was to further protect against responses from documented individuals. The survey addressed the issue of ballot stuffing, or one person taking the survey multiple times, by using a state-of-the-art online survey platform that prevents any single internet protocol, or IP, address from submitting multiple responses. The data were also checked for duplicate responses. While the survey utilized a peer-to-peer sampling strategy to identify DACA recipients, Facebook advertisements were also used in recruitment. This helped create a wider respondent base.

The survey respondents live in 34 states and the District of Columbia and have a median age of 22. Overall, 73 percent are female and 26 percent are male. The higher proportion of females is a recurring trend in online surveys of undocumented young people.

The vast majority of respondents—84 percent—identify as Hispanic/Latino, while another 9 percent identify as Asian, 2 percent identify as black, 2 percent identify as white, and 2 percent identify as other. Compared with the latest estimates of the DACA-eligible population, Hispanic/Latino respondents are slightly overrepresented in this sample. Nonetheless, given the demographic breakdown of approved applications—with 78 percent of DACA recipients born in Mexico and at least another 9 percent born in Central America**—the data likely track with the racial and ethnic distribution of the program.

DACA’s impact on employment

The survey finds that DACA has significantly helped recipients participate in the labor force. Seventy-six percent of respondents are currently employed, with an additional 20 percent not working but in school. As Figure 2 shows, after receiving DACA, 69 percent of respondents report moving to a job with better pay; 57 percent report moving to a job that “better fits my education and training;” and 54 percent report moving to a job with better working conditions.


DACA’s impact on earnings

Nearly two-thirds of respondents—62 percent—“have been able to earn more money, which has helped me become financially independent.” Additionally, 57 percent say that earning more money “has helped my family financially.”

As Figure 3 indicates, DACA has increased average wages 45 percent, moving from $11.92 per hour before receiving DACA to $17.29 per hour after receiving it. This means an average of $5.27 more per hour and a median increase of $4. Because the baseline hourly wage is modest, and many of these individuals are new to the labor force, even relatively small wage bumps result in large percentage increases.

The findings make clear that DACA has created a way for undocumented youth to find better-paying jobs. Future research will help better assess the short- and long-term nature of DACA wage effects as recipients gain more work experience and progress in their careers. Importantly, future research should identify whether short-run wage effects represent a plateau in earnings or whether an even more robust longer-run wage effect exists.


DACA’s impact on education

Overall, 65 percent of respondents are currently in school. Of these, 70 percent are currently working as well. As Figure 4 illustrates, the majority are pursuing undergraduate degrees, and 17 percent are pursuing advanced degrees. Ninety-two percent of the respondents who are currently in school say that, because of DACA, “I pursued educational opportunities that I previously could not.”


DACA recipients on the road

The survey finds that 89 percent of respondents have obtained a driver’s license or state ID for the first time after receiving DACA. Moreover, 21 percent of respondents report buying their first car after receiving DACA, with 26 percent buying a new car and 74 percent buying a used car. A full 96 percent of the people who bought a car have purchased auto insurance.

The average cost of car purchases in the sample was $22,559 for new cars and $9,607 for used cars. This matters for state revenue, as most states collect between 3 percent and 6 percent of the purchase price in sales tax, as well as registration and title fees. This added revenue comes in addition to the inherent safety benefits—to all Americans—of having more licensed and insured drivers on the roads.


These results help inform one of the central premises in the legal challenge brought by Texas and other states to the legality of the deferred action programs—the DACA expansion and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA—that President Barack Obama announced in November 2014. Texas claimed harm from DAPA because Texas charges less in driver’s license fees than it costs the state to issue them.

However, Texas did not take into account any of the new tax revenue that would accrue from people gaining deferred action: The survey data show that 33 percent of Texas respondents bought a car after receiving DACA at an average cost of $10,346. At a tax rate of 6.25 percent, this translates to an average state tax payment of $647 per car, not counting registration and title fees. Although one should take caution when extrapolating from a sample to a population, the findings are clear: Texas stands to gain significant amounts of new tax revenue from individuals who gain deferred action, get driver’s licenses, and buy cars.

Families of DACA recipients

The survey underscores the deep ties that DACA recipients have to U.S. citizens and illustrates the diverse legal statuses that members of the same family can have. Forty-five percent of respondents have siblings who are citizens, while 40 percent have a parent who is eligible to apply for deferred action under DAPA.


From new jobs and better earnings to more education and car purchases, DACA is having a major impact on individual lives. But it is only one piece of the puzzle: While up to 1.17 millionindividuals are currently eligible to apply for DACA, an additional 4 million or so people would be eligible to apply for the 2014 deferred action programs, which remain on hold in the wake of the Texas lawsuit.

Given DACA’s broad economic and societal benefits, allowing deferred action to move forward would reap even larger rewards. Deferred action provides only temporary protections, however, and a more permanent solution in the form of comprehensive immigration reform legislation—anchored by a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants—would yieldeven greater benefits and provide increased prosperity for all Americans.

* Author’s note: A codebook with the data results from the survey will be available on Monday, July 13. In the meantime, for survey data questions, please contact Professor Tom K. Wong,

** Authors’ note: 8.7 percent of applicants were born in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Figures for Nicaragua, Panama, and Belize are not available.

Tom K. Wong is an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego. Kelly K. Richter is the executive action policy fellow and Ignacia Rodriguez is the equal justice works fellow, sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, at the National Immigration Law Center. Philip E. Wolgin is the Associate Director for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress.


AAPI Undocumented Immigrants in the U.S.

By Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., @twong002


This white paper identifies areas of need when it comes to outreach targeted at undocumented Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). Using an innovative method developed by Warren (2014) to estimate the characteristics of the undocumented population, this paper provides a national overview of the undocumented AAPI population, a state-by-state comparison of aggregate estimates, and a state-by-state comparison by national origin group, focusing on China, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Korea. This paper also uses factor analysis to identify 50 areas of need where the undocumented AAPI population in a place is characterized by low English language use, high poverty rates, and low educational attainment. I note here that this white paper is part of a larger collaborative project on the undocumented AAPI population. The results of this larger project are expected by the end of summer 2015.

Defining AAPI

Individuals self-identify their race and ethnicity on Census questionnaires. For example, individuals can self-identify as Asian with respect to race and non-Hispanic with respect to ethnicity. Whereas much focus has been paid to the “Asian alone” category, this paper uses a broader definition of AAPI which combines  “Asian alone,” “Pacific Islander alone,” Asian and Pacific Islanders who also identify as Hispanic (e.g., a person of Japanese ancestry born in Peru), and multi-race AAPIs.


The data used in this paper are the 2013 American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) 1-year estimates. These data, which include over 3 million weighted individual observations, include “likely unauthorized flags per the Warren (2014) estimation method. The PUMS data combined with unauthorized flags permit the identification of areas of need at the Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA) level. A PUMA is a geographic area containing about 100,000 people. For example, while it is helpful to know how many undocumented immigrants live in Los Angeles County, because Los Angeles County is home to roughly 10 million people and covers just over 4,000 square miles, it is perhaps more helpful for outreach purposes to know how many undocumented immigrants live in Koreatown or in Rosemead. PUMA-level analyses provide this level of detail.


Nationally, there are an estimated 1,532,304 undocumented AAPIs. This represents 13.9% of the total undocumented population. Figure 1 shows the distribution of undocumented AAPIs across all PUMAs in the U.S. (states with less than 1,000 undocumented AAPIs are omitted).

  • An estimated 462,376 undocumented AAPIs are potentially eligible for DAPA. This represents 11.9% of the total estimated DAPA population.

  • An estimated 168,670 undocumented AAPIs are potentially eligible for DACA (original and expanded). This represents 11.1% of the total estimated DACA population.


Figure 1
The dark blue areas represent PUMAs with more than 500 undocumented AAPIs. The light blue areas represent PUMAs with between 250 and 499 undocumented AAPIs. The dark grey areas represent PUMAs with between 100 and 249 undocumented AAPIs. The light grey areas represent PUMAs with less than 100 undocumented AAPIs.


The top 5 states when it comes to undocumented AAPIs are the immigrant gateway destinations of California, New York, Texas, New Jersey, and Illinois. However, as Table 1 shows, a diverse set of states ranging from the Northwest (Washington) to the South (Georgia) round out the top 10.


Moreover, as Figure 2 shows, large estimated undocumented AAPI populations are highly correlated with the number of undocumented AAPIs that are potentially eligible for DAPA. In other words, states with large undocumented AAPI populations with minor variations are also states with large DAPA populations. The same trend holds true when looking at the relationship between the size of the undocumented AAPI population in a state and potential DACA eligibility. This provides some evidence to support state-level outreach strategies related to the President’s executive actions on immigration that use population size as a main determinant. However, we now have the ability to drill down more precisely within states and large counties.

figure2 Figure 2

r = .991. California omitted for data visualization purposes. r = .995 for DACA.

National Origin

China, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Korea (in order) currently represent the top 5 countries of origin when it comes to immigration to the U.S. from Asia. They also represent the top 5 countries of origin for the undocumented AAPI population. As Table 2 shows, India represents the largest national origin group among the undocumented APPI population, followed by China, the Philippines, Korea, and Vietnam. These countries combine to account for 81.9% of the total estimated undocumented AAPI population. Note: state-by-state and PUMA level breakdowns are available by national origin group.


Areas of Need

Recently released PUMA-level data provides important new insights about the size and the characteristics of the undocumented population. Using these data, I identify areas of need at the PUMA level, wherein the undocumented AAPI population is characterized by low English language use, high poverty rates, and low educational attainment. Whereas outreach to undocumented AAPIs can be a simple function of population size, these characteristics may be indicative of undocumented AAPI communities wherein targeted outreach related to administrative relief can be most impactful. I note here that different models can identify areas of need for the undocumented AAPI population more generally (e.g., exclude the number potentially eligible for administrative relief from the analysis). Moreover, additional models can be run that identify different sets of needs (e.g., include the number of undocumented AAPIs that do not have health insurance in the analysis). This analysis is intended to identify places that may not be the “usual suspects” in terms of outreach to undocumented AAPIs. Because this analysis relies on population estimates at small geographies, it should be seen as a complement to outreach strategies that use population size as a main determinant. Benchmarking the results of this analysis with local knowledge on the ground is, perhaps, the most effective way to utilize these data.

The following begins by estimating the undocumented AAPI population by PUMA for all PUMAs in the U.S., including their potential eligibility for administrative relief, the number of undocumented AAPIs that do not speak English well, the number of undocumented AAPIs that live at or below the poverty line, and the number of undocumented AAPIs that do not have a high-school degree or equivalent. Factor analysis is used to weight these characteristics and then index all PUMAs to a single score.


The top 50 areas of need are in 12 different states. California leads the way with 16, followed by New York with 11, and then Pennsylvania with 4. Moreover, the top 50 areas of need represent 19.0% of the total undocumented AAPI population, 20.4% of the undocumented AAPI population that is potentially eligible for administrative relief, 33.6% of undocumented AAPIs with language needs, 25.7% of undocumented AAPIs that are estimated to live at or below the poverty line, and 25.6% of undocumented AAPIs that are estimated to not have a high-school degree or equivalent. A list of all 50 areas of need is available here.

New Study by UCSD’s Tom K. Wong: Significant Percentage of Unauthorized Immigrants May Be Eligible for Permanent Status

Tom K. Wong, UCSD Assistant Professor of Political Science and CCIS Research Associate, has published a study in the Journal on Migration and Human Security: “Paths to Lawful Immigration Status: Results and Implications from the PERSON Survey” (with Donald Kerwin, Jeanne M. Atkinson, and Mary Meg McCarthy).

Anecdotal evidence suggests that a significant percentage of unauthorized immigrants are potentially eligible for some sort of immigration relief, but they either do not know it or are not able to pursue lawful immigration status for other reasons. However, no published study the authors are aware of has systematically analyzed this question. The study attempts to answer the question of the number of unauthorized immigrants who, without knowing it, may already be potentially eligible for lawful immigration status.

Click here for the official press release from the Center for Migration Studies with link to the full article.

New Data on Unaccompanied Minors Shows Decreasing Trend

By Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., @twong002

New data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the number of unaccompanied minors coming to the U.S. shows a decreasing trend.

As of June 30, 2014, 56,547 unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico were apprehended at the Southwest border. This represents a monthly average of 6,283 for FY 2014. In July, 5,034 children were apprehended at the border. This represents a decrease of -19.9% in the average monthly intake.

Focusing only on the three Central American countries—El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—that account for the bulk of the recent increase in unaccompanied minors also shows a decrease. As of June 30, 2014, 43,933 unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala were apprehended at the Southwest border. This represents a monthly average of 4,881 for FY 2014. In July, 3,973 children from these three countries were apprehended at the border. This represents a decrease of -18.6%.

Looking more closely at the data, we see that the monthly inflow of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador (-12.7%), Guatemala (-43.6%), and Mexico (-24.3%) have decreased, while the monthly inflow of unaccompanied minors from Honduras has increased (+5.2%).

While these data are encouraging, the general decrease in the number of unaccompanied children coming to the Southwest border does not necessarily mean that there will not be another spike. Specifically, annual apprehensions data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows a general overall decrease in apprehensions at the Southwest border during the summer months.

Statistical Analysis Shows that Violence, Not U.S. Immigration Policies, Is Behind the Surge of Unaccompanied Children Crossing the Border

Tom K. Wong is Assistant Professor of Political Science at UCSD,, @twong002

Download a PDF version here.

An earlier version of this article appeared on July 8, 2014 via the Center for American Progress.

A humanitarian refugee situation at the U.S. southern border has been unfolding over the past few years and dramatically intensifying over the past several months, as tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are fleeing their homes in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. In search of a safe haven, these children embark on dangerous journeys, arriving in the United States and neighboring countries throughout Central America. Indeed, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, asylum applications from children are up by 712 percent in the neighboring countries of Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Belize. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has argued that “many of the children apprehended at the border are fleeing unspeakable violence in their home countries.”

Even as the Obama administration struggles to deal with the situation, including finding adequate shelter and protection for the kids, some in Congress have attempted to score political points by arguing that the increased numbers are the result of the administration’s own immigration enforcement policies, such as the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program in 2012, which grants eligible unauthorized youth a two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), for example, called on President Barack Obama to end the DACA program and begin deporting those with the status to send a message to prospective child refugees that they should not come to the United States. A recent Congressional hearing also placed the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) at the center of the current increase in unaccompanied minors. However, a close statistical evaluation of the available data suggests a very different dynamic that is leading children to leave their Central American homes. It is not U.S. policy but rather violence and the desire to find safety that is the impetus for these children’s journeys.

An analysis of the available data suggests that:

  • Violence is among of the main drivers causing the increase. Whereas Central American countries that are experiencing high levels of violence have seen thousands of children flee, others with lower levels of violence are not facing the same outflow. This trend holds even when accounting for poverty and distance to the United States.
  • By contrast, the evidence does not support the argument that DACA, the TVPRA, or lax border enforcement has caused the increase in children fleeing to the United States.


Violence is driving children to flee Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador

How can it be determined that violence is a primary factor causing children to flee? One way is to use the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC, data on homicides and homicide rates by country. Coupling this data with that of the number of children arriving each year allows us to examine the relationship between violence and children arrivals.

Figure 1 shows how violence affects the flow of children. The relationship is positive, meaning that higher rates of homicide in countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are related to greater numbers of children fleeing to the United States.


Another way to examine the relationship between violence and unaccompanied children is to use the data on security levels in Latin America compiled by FTI Consulting, a global business advisory firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. The annual index ranges from 1 (safe) to 5 (very dangerous) for each country, and data are available from 2009 to 2014. Here again, the relationship is positive, meaning that more dangerous security conditions are related to greater numbers of unaccompanied children. Using the FTI Consulting index data provides an even more strongly statistically significant result, suggesting an even clearer link between violence and children fleeing.

Not only do countries with the highest rates of homicide have the largest numbers of unaccompanied children fleeing, but the data also make clear that countries in Latin America with lower rates of homicide are not sending large numbers of unaccompanied children.

In 2012, the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico accounted for 41,828 homicides, at a rate of 28 per 100,000 people. Exclude Mexico and the murder rate jumps to 54 per 100,000 people. The president of Honduras has gone as far as calling the children refugees from “war” in his country. By contrast, other countries in the region, such as Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama had a total of just 1,881 murders, at a rate of only 13 per 100,000. Nicaragua is particularly useful as an example: It is the second-poorest country in the region—behind only Haiti—and yet, with far lower rates of violence than the three main sending countries, it has not seen an uptick in unaccompanied children leaving.

These findings reinforce a report released by DHS that shows that many of the unaccompanied minors who have recently arrived come from some of the most dangerous cities in Central America.

I also note here that including all Latin American countries in the analysis adds leverage (increases the n) so that other factors can simultaneously be analyzed. The main finding about violence holds when also accounting for economic conditions and distance to the United States.


DACA, the TVPRA, or lax border enforcement is not to blame


In fiscal year 2009, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, encountered slightly fewer than 20,000 unaccompanied children from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. So far in FY 2014, more than 51,000 children have entered, with the increase almost entirely coming from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala (see Figure 2).


The sharp increase during FY 2012 has been used by senators such as Ted Cruz (R-TX) to argue that the creation of the DACA program in June 2012 is the reason “that we have seen the number of children taking the incredible risks entailed with coming across the border grow exponentially.”

There are two problems with this line of thinking. For one, the increase in unaccompanied children began well before 2012. CBP estimates that between FY 2008 and FY 2009, for example, there was a 145 percent spike in unaccompanied children arrivals, jumping from 8,041 to 19,668.

But even more importantly, the U.S. fiscal year starts on October 1 and ends on September 30 of the following year. This means that FY 2012 actually started in October 2011 and ended in September 2012. Considering that applications for deferred action could only be submitted starting on August 15, 2012, it is highly unlikely that DACA caused an increase in children. Data on monthly border apprehensions—which admittedly do not distinguish between unaccompanied children and all others caught at the border—show that the number of people caught at the border actually slowed in the months after DACA was announced.

It also stands to reason that if DACA is causally related to the increased flow of unaccompanied children, the national origins profile of these children should potentially be as diverse as the profile of DACA recipients themselves—in other words, the dramatic increase in unaccompanied minors would not, as the data currently show, be limited to only a few countries. This, in the language of causal inference, means the absence of unit homogeneity. In other words, if DACA were in fact incentivizing the flow of unaccompanied children, Nicaraguans and Panamanians would feel this just as Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans, which would mean dramatic upticks across the board. However, this is clearly not the case.


The TVPRA, which was signed into law by former President Bush at the end of 2008, includes core provisions that are germane to the current political debate over unaccompanied minors. To begin, the TVPRA makes a distinction between non-contiguous and contiguous countries to the U.S. For unaccompanied minors from non-contiguous countries, the TVPRA requires that they be given “safe and secure placement” under the supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services, or HSS, in order to protect them from “traffickers and other persons seeking to victimize or otherwise engage such children in criminal, harmful, or exploitative activity” (see Section 235(c)(1)), and that they have access to legal counsel “to the greatest extent practicable” (see Section 235(c)(5)). This by no means is a “free pass,” as these unaccompanied children are also placed in removal proceedings pending the hearing and adjudication of their cases. The TVPRA also allowed the U.S. to negotiate “child repatriation agreements” with contiguous countries (see Section 235(a)(2)). As a result, unaccompanied Mexican minors are to be treated in the manner described above unless they agree to “voluntarily return,” a process that can lead to their return to Mexico in as little as 48 hours. As the UNHCR notes, most Mexican unaccompanied minors are promptly returned to Mexico under the voluntary return procedure after no more than 1-2 days in U.S. custody. And while data are currently not publicly available on the percentage of children who are returned under this procedure, the fact that only 3% of all unaccompanied minors who were transferred to HSS custody during FY 2013 were from Mexico suggests that the vast majority of unaccompanied Mexican minors are in fact being promptly returned.

It is important to note that the general treatment of unaccompanied minors under the TVPRA is consistent with U.S. obligations under the United Nations Refugee Convention (as well as our own Refugee Act of 1980). However, some such as Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), argue that these provisions are contributing causal factors to the flow of unaccompanied minors.

If the TVPRA had a causal effect upon its enactment, one would expect the number of unaccompanied children coming to the U.S. from non-contiguous countries (i.e., Central American countries south of Mexico) to increase from 2008 to 2009. However, the data show that unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras decreased by 12%, 20%, and 39%, respectively, from FY 2008 to FY 2009. Moreover, as noted earlier, while CBP estimates an overall increase in unaccompanied children between FY 2008 and FY 2009, the data show that this increase is driven exclusively by unaccompanied minors from Mexico—to recall, the TVPRA allowed the U.S. to immediately deport unaccompanied Mexican minors under expedited return procedures. This suggests that the expedited return of unaccompanied Mexican minors has not deterred children from Mexico from attempting to enter the U.S. I note here that during this period, Mexico experienced one of its largest year-to-year increases in deaths as a result of its drug war, jumping 141% (an increase from 2,837 deaths to 6,844).

Of course, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are currently at the center of the political debate over unaccompanied minors. Does this mean that the TVPRA has a lagged causal effect? This does not seem to be the case. If the TVPRA is causally related to the recent increase in unaccompanied children, it also stands to reason—given the TVPRA distinguishes between contiguous and non-contiguous countries—that the national origins profile of unaccompanied minors would include fewer Mexican children (as a contiguous country whose children are subject to expedited return), and a broader range of Latin American countries (as non-contiguous countries whose children are provided basic protections under the legislation). This is not the case. Unaccompanied minors from Mexico have held largely steady over recent years. Moreover, and to reiterate, the recent increase in unaccompanied minors remains limited to only three countries. As with DACA, this again, in the language of causal inference, means the absence of unit homogeneity.

Border enforcement

Arguments such as those of Sen. Cruz connecting DACA to the increase in unaccompanied children also cite lax border security by the Obama administration as an additional contributing factor. But these arguments, such as those about DACA, are equally unsupported by the data. To give just a few examples:

  • Under the Obama administration, funding for the Border Patrol has reached record levels, increasing from $2.3 billion at the end of the Bush administration in 2008 to $3.5 billion in FY 2013—an increase of 52 percent.
  • The number of Border Patrol agents in general, and at the southwest border, now stand at record levels (see Figure 3).


If lax border security were contributing to the increase in children arriving, we would expect to see a negative relationship between border security metrics and the number of unaccompanied children entering the United States. To put it another way, we would expect more children to arrive as border security efforts decrease. Instead, the opposite has occurred: As the United States has ramped up its border enforcement, more children have come (see Figure 4).

To be clear, this should not be interpreted to mean that more border security means more unaccompanied children—again, we only have a handful of observations to analyze. Rather, the data suggest that the recent increase in unaccompanied children is not the result of lax border security, but is occurring despite record levels of border security spending and staffing.

And from recent press reports, it is clear that our border security policies are working exactly as intended: Numerous stories note that the Border Patrol is apprehending these kids upon entry, or soon after. Here too, the evidence is clear that border enforcement policies are not driving the surge in unaccompanied children.




Instead of attempting to repeal programs such as DACA or the TVPRA, the United States should—as Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has suggested—ensure that these children are safe and secure, go after the smugglers and traffickers bringing them here in the first place, often luring them by spreading misinformation, and seek solutions that help quell the violence in these children’s home countries. The data show that this situation is a humanitarian and refugee issue, not an immigration issue, and all sides must not lose sight of the children themselves who are at the heart of the matter.



Notes to Figure 1. Violence and the annual percentage change in unaccompanied minors from 2009 to 2013. For example, Honduras’s homicide rate of 90.4 per 100,000 people in 2012 was associated with a 125% increase in unaccompanied minors from 2012 to 2013. The result is only weakly statistically significant (p = .094), which is expected given the fact that the data covers only a few years. UNODC data are only available through 2012; still, the data are helpful in explaining the relationship between violence and childhood arrivals. Violence is measured using UNODC data on homicide rates—lagged so that cause comes before effect—and unaccompanied children are measured using the annual percentage change in unaccompanied children. Source: Author’s calculation of UNODC and CBP data. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “Global Study on Homicide, 2013” (2013), available at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Southwest Border Unaccompanied Alien Children,” n.d., available at (last accessed July 2014).

Notes to Figure 2. Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Southwest Border Unaccompanied Alien Children,” n.d., available at (last accessed July 2014).

Notes to Figure 3. Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “United States Border Patrol: Border Patrol Agent Staffing by Fiscal Year,” n.d., available at (last accessed, July 2014).

Notes to Figure 4. Author’s calculations based on U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Southwest Border Unaccompanied Alien Children,” n.d., available at and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “United States Border Patrol: Border Patrol Agent Staffing by Fiscal Year,” n.d., available at (last accessed July 2014).

Angela S. Garcia Publishes Article in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

CCIS Graduate Student and PhD Candidate in Sociology Angela S. Garcia has published an article in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

The paper, titled “Hidden in Plain Sight: How Unauthorized Migrants Strategically Assimilate in Restrictive Localities in California” (download), shows how the immediate legal contexts of receiving communities of unauthorized Mexican immigrants.



Mapping DACA Renewals

By Tom K. Wong, Ph.D.,, @twong002

PDF of report here

DACA: 2 Years Later 

According to the latest figures released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), over half a million (521,815) undocumented youth have received temporary relief from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The first DACA applications were submitted on August 15, 2012 and USCIS started approving applications a month later.

DACA is a temporary two-year status, which means that 2014 is the first year that “DACAmented” youth will have to renew their status. USCIS, immigrant-serving organizations, and other stakeholders across the country are already deep in planning and preparing for the renewal process. Will the renewal process mirror the initial success of DACA? To what extent will the costs associated with renewing deter individuals from reapplying? Should we even expect all “DACAmented” youth to reapply These are just some of the questions that loom over the renewal process.

In an effort to inform outreach efforts, this report uses data obtained from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to identify and map where the first wave of DACA renewals are likely to be concentrated.

The Data

The FOIA data analyzed here are the first 146,313 applications submitted to USCIS from August 15, 2012 to September 30, 2012. While it has been 18 months since USCIS began accepting applications, nearly one-quarter of all DACA applications submitted to date were submitted during this time period. Moreover, state-level trends in DACA applications during the first months of the program, with some exceptions, largely mirror current trends.

The data can thus speak to the first wave of DACA renewals and are also informative when it comes to evaluating DACA on the whole. Identifying where DACA renewals are likely to be concentrated is no easy task, as DACA applicants are spread widely across the country. For example, 10,678 zip codes and 1,922 counties are represented in the first 146,313 applications alone. However, there are only 148 counties that are home to between 100 and 449 applicants among the first 146,313 applicants, 33 counties that are home to between 500 and 999 applicants, and 21 counties that are home to more than 1,000. Indeed, the finer-grained the data are, the more leverage we have in identifying DACA renewal “hotspots.”

I note here that complementing this analysis with analysis of where large numbers of estimated DACA-eligible youth have yet to apply at the county- or city-level would add much needed depth to our understanding of the program. However, data limitations currently do not permit this. I refer readers to Wong et al. (2013), which identifies the under-representation of DACA-eligible youth at the state level.


This report identifies and maps DACA renewal “hotspots” across the country. This includes:

1. A map of DACA applications by county for all counties in the U.S. (see Figure 1).

2. County-level maps for California, Texas, New York, Florida, and New Jersey, which represent the top 5 states of residence for DACA applicants during the initial months of the program (Illinois has since supplanted New Jersey in the top 5; see Figures 2 to 6).

3. Zip-code level maps for the Los Angeles metropolitan area, the New York metropolitan area, the greater Houston area, the greater Chicago area, and the Riverside-San Bernardino metropolitan area. These places represent the top 5 metropolitan areas of residence for DACA applicants during the initial months of the program (see Figures 7 to 11).



Figure 1: Number of DACA Applicants by County for All Counties, 8/15/12 – 9/30/12

Contact author for tabulations



Figure 2: DACA Applications by County, California (37,797 applications), 8/15/12 – 9/30/12


Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown



Figure 3: DACA Applications by County, Texas (22,330 applications), 8/15/12 – 9/30/12


Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown



Figure 4: DACA Applications by County, New York (11,570 applications), 8/15/12 -9/30/12


Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown



Figure 5: DACA Applications by County, Florida (9,049 applications), 8/15/12 – 9/30/12


Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown



Figure 6: DACA Applications by County, New Jersey (6,484 applications), 8/15/12 – 9/30/12


Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown



Figure 7: DACA Applications by Zip Code, Greater Los Angeles Area


Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown



Figure 8: DACA Applications by Zip Code, New York Metro Area


Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown



Figure 9: DACA Applications by Zip Code, Greater Houston Area


Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown



Figure 10: DACA Applications by Zip Code, Greater Chicago Area


Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown



Figure 11: DACA Applications by Zip Code, Riverside-San Bernardino MSA


Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown




Fifth Annual University of California Conference on International Migration

Fifth Annual University of California Conference on International Migration:
Immigrant Integration in Comparative Perspective

January 31 – February 1, 2014

Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, UC San Diego

To be held at the Great Hall


Co-sponsored by the  Center for Research on Immigration, Population and Public Policy (UC Irvine) & Program on International Migration (UCLA)

With the participation of the Gifford Center for Population Studies (UC Davis) and Division of Social Sciences (UC Santa Cruz)

CCIS Fall Seminar – American Values: Migrants, Money and Meaning

Seminar to be held on Wednesday, December 4th in ERC 115. Event begins at 12:00PM.

Author Meets Critics: Join David Pedersen, Beatriz Cortez and David Gutierrez as they discuss Mr. Pedersen’s book American Value: Migrants, Money and Meaning in El Salvador and the United States.

El Salvador has transformed dramatically over the past half-century. Historically reliant on cash crops like coffee and cotton, the country emerged from a civil war in 1992 to find much of its national wealth coming from money sent home by a massive emigrant workforce in the United States.  In American Value, David Pedersen examines this new way of life across two places: Intipucá in El Salvador and Washington, DC in the USA.  Drawing on Charles S. Pierce to craft a highly innovative semiotic of value, he critically explains how the apparent worthiness of migrants and their money is shaping a transnational moral world with implications well beyond El Salvador and the USA.

David PedersonDavid Pedersen

Associate Professor of Anthropology – UCSD

w/ Beatriz Cortez, Professor of Central American Studies – CSUN

& David Gutierrez, Professor of History – UCSD

REPORT NOW AVAILABLE: Understanding Change in Science & Engineering – July 12 & 13 Workshop

CCISBuilding the Innovation Economy? The Challenges of Defining, Creating and Maintaining the STEM Workforce: 

For several years, policymakers in Washington, academic and other experts, and industry leaders have emphasized the importance of the so-called “STEM” fields—science, technology, engineering and math—for economic growth, national competitiveness and security, and job creation. Yet we still know little about how this crucial sector of the economy works, and in particular, why industry demands ever more foreign workers even as many US workers are leaving this vibrant sector, and how US workers keep their skill sets current in the face of continual change. Most broadly, we need to understand what STEM actually means. It is a term that is used widely, and even forms the basis of legislation, yet it resists a clear definition.

These are some major conclusions from a workshop held at the University of California-San Diego on July 12 and 13, 2013. The workshop, sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, brought together academic specialists from fields as diverse as economics, education, management, public policy, and sociology to meet with industry leaders representing biotech, finance, software, telecommunications, and tech journalism, for a results-oriented and wide-ranging discussion of these important issues. Several key conclusions, as well as related readings by workshop participants, are included.

Download Here: CCIS.BuildingTheInnovationEconomy