October 2023

IZA DP No. 16548: Intermarriage amid Immigration Status Uncertainty: Evidence from DACA

In 2012, the Obama Administration issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by executive order. Since then, more than 800,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived as children have benefited from renewable 2-year reprieves from deportation and work permits. In 2017, the Trump Administration announced it would end DACA - an announcement immediately followed by court challenges. We examine how the temporary nature of DACA's granted benefits and the uncertainty regarding the program's fate after 2017 might have shaped DACA-eligible migrants' decision to marry a U.S. citizen - presumably to secure permanent residence amid an increasingly unclear policy environment. Using a difference-in-differences approach that exploits the discontinuity in DACA eligibility criteria cutoffs to construct akin treatment and control groups, we show that DACA-eligible immigrants became more likely than similar DACA-ineligible undocumented migrants to marry U.S. citizens after the program came under siege. The findings are illustrative of the implications of policy changes that increase the uncertainty surrounding migrants' legal status, as in the case of intermarriage with potentially long-term consequences on migrant integration and the welfare of subsequent generations.