Millions of Young Immigrants Expected to Apply for Deferred Action Status
by Ben Seidman | University of MichiganImage courtesy of flickr, longislandwins
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, President Obama’s plan to help illegal immigrants who came over the border as children remain in America, was set in motion last Wednesday amid a flurry of applications.
“It makes no sense to expel talented young people who, for all intents and purposes, are American,” President Obama said when announcing the new program.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services predicts 1.2 million young people will apply for deferred action status. The agency currently reviews six million applications, for work visas, residency, and citizenship, annually.
The Los Angeles Times reports that an excess of 1.7 million will be suitable for citizenship with the enactment of this measure. The applicants who are approved will be given government-issued authorization to work and remain in the U.S. and be granted a two-year deferral from deportation.
Obama’s initiative does not provide as many benefits as the previously proposed DREAM Act, which was voted down by Congress in 2010. The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act aimed to award citizenship to undocumented youths who display they are in school and on a good path.
“Deferred action does not provide lawful status or a pathway to permanent residence or citizenship,” Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said in a conference call to journalists.
Mayorkas also noted that each application “will be examined for potential fraud and reviewed on a case by case basis.”
While Mayorkas indicated it will take months for the applications to undergo review, each application’s status can be checked and tracked on their website. With no additional employees to be added for this jump in applications and no additional funds, officials expect the $465 cost per application to cover the expected strain on their budget.
“It is going to be a huge challenge,” Doris Meissner, former head of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, told the L.A. Times. “The start-off will be very important. How it is handled and the time it takes to process them will set the tone.”
To be eligible to reap the benefits of the program, one must have entered the United States before the age of 16, have been in the United States for five years prior to June 15, 2012 and be between the ages of 15-30. In addition, applicants must have either graduated from high school, be enrolled in school, or be a veteran of the United States military. Applicants must also agree to a background screening. Young people convicted of a felony, “significant misdemeanor,” or three or more misdemeanors are not eligible to apply for deferred status.
The Obama camp believes that this initiative will allow law enforcement to allocate their resources more effectively toward deporting convicted criminals who pose a danger to society instead of targeting those who add to it.
Even as some Republican pundits argue this is simply a ploy to gain the Latino vote, Obama said the current solution is only “a temporary stopgap measure” as opposed to a long term answer to the country’s immigration riddle. However, there is no certainty that this approach to immigration will remain under future presidents.
Raymond Kramer, a student at the University of Arizona, witnessed first-hand the effects of Arizona State Bill 1070, the most rigorous policy on immigration to date. SB 1070 called for all law enforcement officers to use their own judgment to determine a person’s immigration status during “lawful contact.”
“This comes as a huge relief to me and I know it will be a greater relief to many people in Arizona,” said Kramer. “These are people that work so incredibly hard just to remain in this country. What is more admirable than that?”
Michael Flores, 24, was born in Mexico but came over the border when he was just a baby. On Wednesday, he waited on line to receive the application along with masses of others with the same dream in sight.
“Finally, an opportunity to be able to do something in our education and our life, to be able to get a work permit and not feel stuck,” Flores told Reuters while waiting in line to pick up his form.Ben was born and raised on the streets of New York City. Writing is his passion. Keeping people informed about what is going on in the world is his job. Go Blue!