Here's What The $495 DACA Application Fee Is Worth in States with The Most Dreamers

The majority of recipients aren't "lazy" but cannot possibly earn a livable wage.

DACA recipient Karla Estrada, 26, prepares dinner at her apartment in Los Angeles, California. / REUTERS

Chief of Staff John Kelly questioned why eligible DACA recipients don't get off their lazy asses and apply for DACA. One answer he did not consider is the $495 it costs to apply.


The 10 states with the greatest percentage of DACA recipients are, for the most part, not the nation's most affordable. According to a USA Today ranking, seven of them are among the bottom half when it comes to being the best for cost of living.

More than three-quarters of DACA recipients reported annual personal incomes of less than $25,000. In all 10 states with the largest percentage of DACA recipients, this is below the median income. And only 20 percent of DACA recipients said they have enough to pay for personal expenses.

California, where 28.7 percent of Dreamers reside, ranks No. 49 on cost of living — falling only behind Hawaii. The median income is $28,068 and the average cost to rent a 1-bedroom apartment is $1,631.

Since most DACA recipients said they make under $25,000 annually, let's assume someone makes $24,000 a year. After taxes in California this comes out to about $18,958 a year, or $1,579.83 a month. Without a roommate (in a 1-bedroom), this is not a livable wage even without factoring in the cost of groceries and other day-to-day expenses — let alone the DACA application fee.

Here's a breakdown of the other states, still using the $24,000/year benchmark.

Texas (Home to 16.4 percent of Dreamers)

Rank for cost of living: 23

Median yearly income: $27,251

Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $882

Take-home monthly pay for a Dreamer: $1,659.88

According to MIT's living wage calculator, one adult living in Texas would require a take-home salary of roughly $20,128. The average monthly cost for food, transportation, medical and other various expenses would set someone back about $1,020.58. Add in the median cost of rent and this is not a livable wage.

Illinois (Home to 5.2 percent of Dreamers)

Rank for cost of living: 21

Median yearly income: $30,140

Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $924

Take-home monthly pay for a Dreamer: $1,560.88

Even before taxes, MIT's calculator estimates a required salary of $25,999. Excluding housing, one adult would pay roughly $1,064.75 in monthly expenses.

New York (Home to 4.8 percent of Dreamers)

Rank for cost of living: 48

Median yearly income: $30,530

Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $1,565

Take-home monthly pay for a Dreamer: $1,530.88

Even without any other monthly expenses considered, the average take-home pay for a Dreamer in New York will not even cover rent.

Florida (Home to 3.9 percent of Dreamers)

Rank for cost of living: 34

Median income: $25,364

Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $1,110

Take-home monthly pay for a Dreamer: $1,659.88

After rent, a solo Dreamer is left with $549.88 for the month. MIT estimates the monthly cost of food, transportation, medical and other expenses comes out to $1,052 for one adult — leaving someone on a Dreamer's salary in the red before even considering to apply for DACA.

Arizona (Home to 3.7 percent of Dreamers)

Rank for cost of living: 30

Median income: $26,278

Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $911

Take-home monthly pay for a Dreamer: $1,602.28

MIT estimates an after-tax annual salary of $19,999 to live in Arizona — a little bit above the $19,227.30/year that an average Dreamer might be taking home in the state. And with average monthly expenses coming in at $1,056.83 before rent, putting money aside for the $495 DACA application fee seems implausible.

North Carolina (Home to 3.6 percent of Dreamers)

Rank for cost of living: 26

Median income: $25,566

Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $869

Take-home monthly pay for a Dreamer: $1,549.90

Monthly expenses for one adult in North Carolina round out to $1,019.92. This leaves only $529.98 in the monthly budget for rent — several hundred dollars short of the average cost for rent.

Georgia (Home to 3.1 percent of Dreamers)

Rank for cost of living: 14

Median income: $26,244

Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $868

Take-home monthly pay for a Dreamer: $1,539.88

The most affordable state on the list would still not be feasible for an adult Dreamer on his or her own. MIT pegs monthly expenses at $1,039. When adding rent the monthly take-home amount would have to be just under $2,000 to make ends meet.

New Jersey (Home to 2.5 percent of Dreamers)

Rank for cost of living: 40

Median income: $33,301

Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $1,259

Take-home monthly pay for a Dreamer: $1,624.88

The Garden State would appear to be a garden of debt for Dreamers. Without even considering monthly expenses an eligible person would not be able to afford the $495 DACA application fee.

Washington (Home to 2.4 percent of Dreamers)

Rank for cost of living: 41

Median income: $31,407

Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment: $1,109

Take-home monthly pay for a Dreamer: $1,659.88

After rent, the remaining $550.88 would not be enough to cover the estimated monthly cost of living expenses, calculated by MIT as $1,030.83 — nearly double that amount.

These calculations were assuming an annual salary of $24,000 for one adult on his or her own. But in many instances this may not be the case. According to a 2015 survey of DACA recipients, many of them live in households with at least three other family members. But, according to the same survey, "DACA recipients take a prominent economic and social role in their family."

"Although DACA recipients have been able to get more jobs, a lot of people still have trouble making ends meet," according to the research.

The survey asked if respondents have enough to cover their monthly bills and expenses. Almost 70 percent said either no or that they could "but just barely."

More than 60 percent of survey respondents said they are responsible for helping pay the bills. Per the report: "Close to 62 percent of DACA recipients reported helping their family pay the bills — including rent and utilities. In many families, DACA recipients are often the only person with a work permit, which means many of them must help their family financially. They not only care for themselves, but their family's financial obligations as well."

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