Majority of Undocumented Millennials Say More Help Is Needed

While a majority of young undocumented immigrants who are eligible for consideration under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have applied for deferred action or employment authorization, nearly three-quarters say the program "is not enough," a survey commissioned by Unbound Philanthropy and the Own the Dream Research Institute at United We Dream finds.

Based on a survey of nearly fifteen hundred undocumented immigrants between the ages of 18 and 35, the report, In Their Own Words: A National Survey of Undocumented Millennials (25 pages, PDF), found that 93 percent of respondents had applied for deferred action through the program, 64 percent reported no longer feeling afraid on account of their immigration status, and 35 percent said they had become more involved in their communities. At the same time, while 70 percent of respondents said they had started a new or first job on receiving deferred action, only about half said they now earned enough to be financially independent (46 percent) or to help their families (51 percent). In addition, while 95 percent of survey respondents said they planned to apply for renewal of their deferred status through the program, 51 percent said the $465 fee required every two years would be a financial hardship.

Conducted by the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego, the survey also found that undocumented millennials are more politically and civically engaged than the average American voter, with 41 percent of respondents having participated in a political rally or demonstration and 53 percent self-identifying as political activists. And while nearly as many undocumented youth identify as politically independent (45 percent) as Democrat (50 percent), 71 percent said their future support for the Democratic Party depended on whether the Democrats address the issue of the separation of families as a result of deportation.

"The data makes clear that DACA is having a profound impact on the lives of undocumented millennials — we see this not only when it comes to economic and other material gains, but also in the fact that so many of our respondents reported feeling a greater sense of belonging in the United States after they received deferred action," said Tom Wong, who authored the study. "The data question many of our previously held assumptions about the political preferences of undocumented millennials. Democrats and Republicans alike should pay very close attention to the findings, as they provide a window into who this emerging constituency may support in the future."