Since 2001, Congress has debated legislation that would offer a pathway to legal status for eligible unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. And in 2012, President Barack Obama launched the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that offers work authorization and relief from deportation for some such immigrants. A core provision in these bills and the DACA program has been that unauthorized-immigrant youth must earn a high school diploma or its equivalent to qualify.
The Trump administration’s 2017 decision to rescind the DACA program—and subsequent court orders that have kept it alive only for DACA beneficiaries renewing their participation, not for new applicants—leave new unauthorized-immigrant graduates with an uncertain future.
Debates on potential legislative solutions for these youth have long had to rely on an earlier estimate of the number of unauthorized immigrants who graduate from U.S. high schools each year, based on 2000–02 data. The size and characteristics of the young unauthorized population have changed considerably since then. This fact sheet provides the most up-to-date estimates of this population for the United States overall and for top states, drawing upon a unique MPI methodology that assigns legal status in U.S. Census Bureau data.
Using this dataset and applying high school graduation rates by race/ethnicity and English Learner status, MPI estimates approximately 98,000 unauthorized immigrants graduate from U.S. high schools every year. Forty-four percent of these graduates reside in just two states: California and Texas.