Breakdown of Dreamer Populations — Both With and Without DACA

Breakdown of Dreamer Populations — Both With and Without DACA

December 2022

Dreamers are undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, lived and attended school here, and, in many cases, identify as American. In 2001, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was first introduced. The intention of this program was to provide a pathway to legal status for Dreamers. Over the last 20 years, at least 11 versions of the Dream Act have been introduced in Congress. 

In 2012, the Obama administration announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a temporary program that provided protection from deportation and work authorization to certain Dreamers. DACA has enabled roughly 828,270 Dreamers to attend school, work, plan their lives, and contribute to their communities without fear of deportation. However, years after the program started, the numbers have changed. Below is a breakdown of current Dreamer populations, including those with and without DACA.

Total Estimated Dreamer Population

  • The total universe of Dreamers who could potentially benefit from a Dream Act or Dream provisions is likely close to three million. In 2021, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimated that nearly 3 million Dreamers could have benefited from the latest version of the bipartisan Dream Act introduced in the Senate that year

Current DACA Recipients

  • The number of active DACA recipients as of June 2022 is 594,120, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Under the current litigation, those who currently have DACA or had it within the last year can file for renewals of their DACA protections and work permits.

Pending DACA Applications

  • Because of Texas v. United States, as of July 16, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now enjoined from granting DACA to new first-time applicants, including 80,000 applications that were pending on July 16, 2021.

The DACA-Eligible Population

  • As of June 2022, MPI estimates the immediately eligible DACA population to be 1,161,000.
  • Moving up the date of entry. The current arrival date to be eligible for DACA is June 15, 2007, which has not changed since the June 15, 2012 memo was first implemented. In 2021, MPI estimated that if DHS were to update the arrival date to June 15, 2016, then an additional 399,000 individuals could immediately become eligible for DACA. In addition, a total of approximately 2,128,000 Dreamers would be eligible for DACA  if they also meet the education requirements.  

Dreamers Covered by the SUCCEED Act (S.1852)

  • Under the Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers Employment Education and Defending Our Nation (SUCCEED) Act introduced by ​​Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), MPI estimated that approximately 2,035,000 Dreamers would meet the minimum threshold based on initial age at arrival and length of time in the U.S. criteria.

Dreamers Covered by 2021 Senate Dream Act (S.264

  • MPI estimated that 2,994,000 Dreamers would meet the minimum age at entry and years of U.S. residence requirements for the 2021 Senate Dream Act.

Dreamers Covered by 2021 Dream and Promise Act (H.R.6)

  • MPI estimated that 2,763,000 Dreamers would meet the minimum age and educational requirements for conditional permanent residence.

Documented Dreamers

  • Documented dreamers are children and young adults who are dependents of non-immigrant visa holders who age out of their status due largely to green card backlogs. While not included in the 2021 Senate Dream Act, they were included in the 2021 House Dream and Promise Act (H.R.6), and MPI estimated that 190,000 Documented Dreamers would meet the age and education requirements in that bill.

Undocumented Students in Higher Education

  • Over 427,000 undocumented students are enrolled in postsecondary education. Of these students, less than half (181,000) are DACA-eligible. 
  • Nearly 100,000 undocumented students are graduating high school annually, but only a quarter of them are estimated to be eligible for DACA.
  • A majority of undocumented students entering higher education are not eligible for DACA because they arrived in the U.S. after June 15, 2007.

December 2022 Compromise Negotiated by Senators Tillis and Sinema

  • Leaked draft provisions are said to include about 2 million Dreamers with a path to citizenship.
  • As we have seen with other Dream legislation, it is expected for individuals to meet rigorous educational, financial, character, and criminal thresholds.
  • The Niskanen Center has estimated that in its current iteration, the compromise offers 2.3 million Dreamers a path to citizenship.