April , 2019

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CHICAGO, IL — A new survey by Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) shows that Illinois immigrants have become more financially independent, gained access to educational and professional opportunities, and contributed more to their local economies since obtaining a temporary reprieve from deportation, access to work authorization, and social security numbers through the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The survey of 200 Illinois DACA recipients, conducted with the assistance of Assistant Professor Tom K. Wong at the University of California, San Diego, highlights that funding for legal services is critical to increase the number of DACA applicants. Illinois has about 90,000 potentially DACA-eligible residents, but as of March 15, only about 35,106 Illinoisans had received DACA protection.

“The survey findings reflect what NIJC has long known as we’ve provided legal services to Illinois’ immigrant communities: Undocumented young people have a strong desire to participate in our economy, but are held back by not having legal status,” said NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “DACA was a game-changer for many Illinoisans, but there are many more who are eligible for deferred action who, because they do not have access to legal counsel, have not been able to apply.”

The DACA survey release coincides with the launch of Chicago’s Comprehensive Immigrant Integration Plan. Developed by the Chicago Immigration Working Group with support from Aldermen Carlos Rosa (35th Ward) and Ricardo Muñoz (22nd Ward) and Alderwoman Susan Garza (10th Ward), the plan recognizes that strong and stable immigrant communities benefit Chicago’s economy, a reality that NIJC’s DACA survey findings reflect.

NIJC’s findings:

• Access to DACA increased average hourly wages by 32 percent from $10.38/hour to $15.25/hour

• 90% of survey respondents relied on legal assistance during the DACA application process

• Thanks to DACA, 70% of survey respondents accessed educational opportunities, 57% secured their first credit card, 85% obtained a driver’s license and/or state identification card, and 28% purchased their first car

• Since obtaining DACA, of the 172 survey respondents who were employed, 72% changed jobs or secured their first job, 68% became financially independent, and 76% were able to support their family financially

As a member of the Chicago Immigration Working Group and in light of the DACA survey findings, NIJC calls for an increase in investment in legal services that will help more Illinois residents apply for immigration relief and contribute to Illinois’ economic health.

Link to this press release and the policy brief: http://immigrantjustice.org/press_releases/survey-daca-in-illinois

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. Visit immigrantjustice.org.

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