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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Study links DACA to more schooling, fewer births

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which linked eligibility to schooling, led to a 15 percent increase in high school graduation rates for undocumented immigrant youth, according to a working paper.

DACA also was linked to a 45 percent drop in teenage births, a 3 percent increase in high school attendance and a 22 percent increase in college enrollment for Latinas.

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

The “Dreamers” rhetoric implies that most undocumented immigrants are college-bound or college students. Not surprisingly, the children of low-income, poorly educated immigrants often do poorly in school, especially if they arrive with poor English skills.

DACA provided a strong incentive to enroll in GED and job-training programs, reports a Harvard study called the National UnDACAmented Research Project.

Twenty-two percent of adult DACA recipients (17 percent of those eligible) have earned a bachelor’s degree, compared to 32 percent of U.S. adults, researcher Roberto Gonzalez found. About 21 percent of DACA recipients dropped out of high school, compared to 5.9 percent of all adults.

Take Sandra, for example. Sandra began working at the age of 13, cleaning houses with her mother to help support her family. Family needs, growing frustrations due to her unauthorized status, and her inability to envision a promising future compelled her to drop out of high school. When DACA was announced in 2012, Sandra was 26 years old and had two children. She enrolled in a GED program to gain eligibility and to receive DACA’s benefits. But she didn’t stop there. After she passed her GED exam, she pursued a medical assistant program through a local nonprofit in Arizona. Her life has dramatically improved, and she said she feels as though she can provide her children with a better life. With her new job, she is working to save money, and her next goal is to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

With the ability to get drivers’ licenses, work permits and, sometimes, college aid, many DACA recipients have qualified for better jobs. They’re not more skilled or educated than other young Americans. They may be more motivated.

There are about 800,000 people using DACA. The typical beneficiary came here from Mexico at the age of 6 and lives in California.

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