Immigration Reform Matters to the Southern Border Region

Last Updated: July 13, 2021

SBCC supports immigration reform that would provide a broad path to legal residence and citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, including numerous borderland community members.

Countless undocumented borderlanders and their families would reap the benefits of immigration reform. Legalization would protect 305,000 active DACA recipients and an estimated 854,000 individuals who are eligible for DACA in southern border states (California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas). In addition, it would benefit some 97,000 TPS recipients and appoximately 2.3 million undocumented essential workers in southern border states. There are roughly 1.2 million undocumented farmworkers and approximately half work in a southern border state, with the majority supporting California’s farms. Tens of thousands of other undocumented borderlanders have spent over ten years in the U.S. and become well established members of our communities. Many are married or the parent of a U.S. citizen.

There is considerable overlap between these different categories of undocumented immigrants, which makes it impossible to estimate exactly how many borderlanders would benefit from immigration reform.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Recipients

A path to citizenship would offer permanent protection to up to 1.7 million individuals eligible for DACA, over 854,000 of whom live in a southern border state, according to Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates.

Of the estimated 616,000 active DACA recipients, some 305,000 live in California, Arizona, Texas or New Mexico, according to the latest data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

1 in 5 daca recipients live in southern border communities

Immigrant youth are instrumental to our communities — they’re our neighbors, teachers, nurses and doctors. Learn more about Border Dreamers here.

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Of these DACA recipients, 151,000 live in southern border communities. About 76,000 Dreamers live in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metropolitan area alone, followed by 22,000 in Riverside-San Bernardino; 21,000 in the Phoenix area and 10,000 in the San Diego region.

Immigration reform could also broaden the criteria for DACA, and MPI estimates that between 1.9 million and 2.9 million undocumented immigrants who arrived to the United States as children could be eligible.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Recipients

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the authority to designate a country for TPS that is undergoing an armed conflict, natural disaster or other extraordinary and temporary conditions where individuals cannot safely return to their home country.

Of the nearly 320,000 people with TPS as of September 2020, 80 percent have held the status for at least ten years. A path to citizenship would permanently protect these individuals. An estimated 31% of TPS recipients live in a southern border state, the vast majority in California (17%) and Texas (13%).

People from 12 countries are currently eligible for TPS: Haiti, El Salvador, Syria, Nepal, Honduras, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Nicaragua, Myanmar, South Sudan and Venezuela. In his first few months in office, President Biden designated Venezuela and Myanmar and re-designated Haiti for TPS, largely due to the fantastic work of border advocates. There is currently a push to re-designated Honduras and El Salvador and designate Guatemala for TPS, due to last year’s back-to-back hurricanes in Central America.

Essential Workers

Immigrants across the country have played crucial roles on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The New American Economy (NAE) has published research on the role of Black immigrants, Hispanic Americans and Asian American and Pacific Islander American in the healthcare sector and other essential industries.

Millions of immigrants who put their lives at risk to support our communities are undocumented and would greatly benefit from immigration reform. The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) estimated that there are 5.5 million undocumented workers in “essential critical infrastructure” categories defined by DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency that include roles in health, infrastructure, manufacturing, service, food, safety and other needs. Roughly half of these undocumented workers serve crucial roles in a southern border state.


Farmworkers harvest crops and tend to livestock, ensuring that the entire country is fed. Roughly half of 2.4 million agricultural workers are undocumented immigrants who would benefit from immigration reform, according to the 2015-16 National Agricultural Workers Survey, the most recent available data from the U.S. Department of Labor. An estimated half of farmworkers (i.e., approximately 1.2 million) live in a southern border state, the majority in California. Nearly half a million California farmworkers could gain legal status through immigration reform.



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Southern Border Communities Coalition is a program of Alliance San Diego.


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