Law & Courts

Trump Says DACA Is Dead. Research Shows It Raised Grad Rates for Immigrant Students

By Corey Mitchell — April 02, 2018 3 min read
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DACA, which protects hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from deportation, has important educational benefits for recipients, new research concludes.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program had a “significant impact” on the educational outcomes of undocumented immigrant youth, including a 15 percent increase in high school graduation rates, according to a recently released National Bureau of Economic Research working paper.

The results suggest that more than 49,000 additional Hispanic youths obtained a high school diploma because of DACA, researchers from Dartmouth University, Southern Methodist University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute concluded.

The researchers also linked other benefits to DACA, including a 45 percent drop in teenage births, a 3 percent increase in the school attendance of high school-age students, and a 22 percent increase in college enrollment among Hispanic women.

“These results have significant bearing on the direction of future immigration policy,” the authors wrote. “In part, the controversy over this policy stems over fears that undocumented immigrants may bring undesirable attributes to communities—for example, low levels of education ... Our findings suggest that immigration policy that includes incentives for education can lead to improvements in each of these areas of concerns.”

Under the eligibility rules of DACA, applicants had to be enrolled in school, have graduated from high school, have a GED, or be an honorably discharged veteran.

The researchers did caution that the research has yet to undergo peer review or review by the National Bureau of Economic Research’s board of directors. Despite that, the findings could emerge as a rallying point in the ongoing debate over immigration reform.

Trump Tweets That DACA Is ‘Dead’

The debate over immigration was inflamed again over the weekend when President Donald Trump—whose position on protections for young immigrants has shifted repeatedly—tweeted that DACA was “dead” and blamed Democrats in Congress who “didn’t care or act.” But the Trump administration essentially ended the program back in September when the federal government stopped accepting new applications for the program.

Still, for current recipients, DACA remains in effect despite what President Trump has said. That’s because a lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, over the future of the program must now wind through the federal appeals process.

A total repeal of DACA could have wide-ranging implications for schools in the United States. The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute estimates that a quarter-million students have become DACA-eligible since President Barack Obama began the program in 2012 and that about 9,000 undocumented, DACA-protected teachers work in U.S. schools.

Here’s a look at the National Bureau of Economic Research paper.

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Photo Credit: Wearing “butterfly wings,” supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program hold a tarp with an image of President Donald Trump as they march in support of DACA on March 5 on Capitol Hill in Washington. --Jacquelyn Martin/AP

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.