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Preliminary Illinois Deferred Action Survey Results Show Importance of Access to Work Authorization, Driver’s Licenses

CHICAGO, IL — Removing the fear of deportation and providing access to work authorization and driver’s licenses has allowed formerly undocumented Illinoisans to open businesses, pursue higher education, buy cars, and obtain credit cards. These are some of the preliminary highlights from Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center’s (NIJC’s) ongoing survey of Illinois youth and students who received temporary protection under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President Obama announced three years ago today.

“[Access to a driver’s license] gave me peace of mind to be able to go to my work in a convenient way,” one DACA recipient stated. “It allowed me to do things I wasn’t able to do before like running errands, going to the bank, shopping, and being able to be independent.”

NIJC is conducting the survey in collaboration with Professor Tom Wong at the University of California San Diego.

Of the 137 survey respondents to date:

• 84% now have driver’s licenses

• 68% are financially independent

• 53% pursued higher educational opportunities

• 51% applied for and received their first credit card

• 22% bought their first car

NIJC invites Illinois DACA recipients to participate in the 4-minute survey at http://bit.ly/DACA_NIJC.

Additionally, several DACA recipients expressed relief at the ability to plan for their futures or travel to visit family without fear that a traffic stop or other encounter could land them in deportation proceedings.

“It has been a blessing that I am able to travel outside of the city to visit family and also build my own business for my future family,” one survey respondent wrote.

Such stories highlight the urgency to expand DACA and implement Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), both of which have been temporarily suspended by a Texas federal court injunction.

“Today, on the third anniversary of President Obama’s first deferred action announcement, we should be celebrating thousands of additional DACA and DAPA recipients and the ways they would be contributing to our communities,” said NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “The temporary delays we now face in those programs are a real loss to all of us.”

As individuals wait to apply for expanded DACA and DAPA, NIJC encourages immigrant families to continue to gather documents, learn about expanded DACA and DAPA, and seek legal consultations to answer questions about whether they will be eligible once the programs are allowed to proceed. A 2014 Center for Migration Studies survey of immigration legal service providers found that 14.3 percent of immigrants without proper documentation who sought legal consultations for the original DACA program found out they were potentially eligible for more permanent immigration benefits that included paths to lawful permanent residence and citizenship.

For more information about DACA, including NIJC workshops offering free DACA legal assistance, visit www.immigrantjustice.org/DACA.

Link to this statement: http://immigrantjustice.org/press_releases/deferred-action-creates-jobs-educational-options-immigrant-youth

With offices in Chicago, Indiana, and Washington, D.C., Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation, and public education. For more information visit www.immigrantjustice.org.

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