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Report: Mixed Picture for Young Immigrant Deportation Relief Program

With the second anniversary of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program coming on August 15, a new national study describing the DACA population reports that, as of July 20, 2014, 55 percent of the eligible 1.2 million unauthorized immigrant youth had applied for relief from deportation. By July 20, the program had granted deportation relief to 587,366 individuals.

Last week, the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute (MPI) released “DACA at the Two-Year Mark: A National and State Profile of Youth Eligible and Applying for Deferred Action,” which reports the most recent estimates of the current and prospective DACA population, nationally and for 15 states. In addition, the MPI launched an online data tool, with national DACA population estimates and 41 state DACA estimates. Highly detailed profiles for 25 states and the U.S. are also provided by the data tool.

DACA, which took effect August 15, 2012, provides work authorization as well as a two-year amnesty from deportation for eligible unauthorized immigrants who entered the U.S. before the age of 16. Eligibility has meant that the youth satisfied requirements for length of residence, education, and were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data obtained by MPI reveal that the agency had accepted 681,189 applications for processing as of July 20, 2014. And USCIS had accepted close to 25,000 renewal applications between June 5 and July 20.

MPI president Michael Fix said the institute’s analysis shows “a mixed picture” of DACA’s inaugural two years. “On the one hand, the sheer volume of applicants is impressive. On the other, hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth have not yet gained a status that can change their lives in measurable ways, allowing them improved job prospects, the ability to apply for driver’s licenses and more,” he said in a statement.

The report discloses that more than 2.1 million unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as children are potentially eligible for DACA. Two groups not yet meeting the residency and education requirements could eventually gain DACA eligibility status: 426,000 youth who appear to satisfy all but the education requirements when the program launched, and 473,000 who were too young to apply previously and could become eligible by earning a high school diploma or equivalent.

In other findings:


1) Eligible youth were most likely to apply for the program in Arizona (66 percent), Texas (64 percent), Nevada and Colorado (61 percent) and North Carolina (59 percent). They were least likely to apply in Massachusetts and New Jersey (37 percent), Virginia (38 percent), Florida (39 percent) and Maryland (41 percent).

2) Among the total DACA-eligible population, Latin American youth were more likely to apply, while Asian youth were less likely to do so. Mexicans, who represent 65 percent of all immediately eligible DACA youth, had a 62 percent application rate as of March 31, ranking behind Hondurans (68 percent) and ahead of Peruvians (61 percent). By contrast, just 24 percent of immediately eligible Koreans, 26 percent of Filipinos and 28 percent of Indians had applied by that date.

Margie McHugh, director of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, said the new report indicates that, among the substantial number of potentially DACA eligible youth, many have limited English proficiency and few years of secondary education. Access to adult education programs, which includes English as a Second Language and basic skills instruction, will be vital for such youths, she noted.

“The DACA program is unlike any other domestic immigration policy in that it’s tying together what would normally be a simple adjudication based on whether (the applicants) meet security requirements and the like, and includes this connection to educational attainment, which then invokes a whole set of issues about the strength of those educational systems in working with immigrant and refugee youth,” McHugh told Diverse.

McHugh explained that she “found the overall application rates very sobering” given that “an ambitious program was established inside the Department of Homeland Security and managed to attract applications from several hundred thousand qualifying young adults” coupled with the overall applicant response being 37 percent when including those who have become age eligible and the young adults who have yet to meet the education requirement.

” That says to me that we have a leaky pipeline into the DACA program’s protections that in many ways mirrors the leaky pipeline in our education system (overall in the U.S.),” she said.

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