A new study from the Migration Policy Institute suggests that 1.76 million unauthorized immigrants could be eligible for deferred action status, under the Obama Administration’s new policy, which kicks off August 15. The DREAM-eligible immigrants who can be helped by this policy are those who were brought to America before the age of 16, have resided in the US for the past five years, have no criminal record (defined as a felony, “significant misdemeanor,” or three or more smaller misdemeanors), and are either currently in school, have graduated high school, or participated in the armed forces. Previous estimates of this community, from the Obama Administration, added up to 800,000 beneficiaries. MPI puts the figure much higher, recently updating it because of changes to the policy:
The MPI estimates are up from the 1.39 million figure provided on June 15 — reflecting the updated DHS guidelines that youth lacking a high school or GED degree would be eligible to apply for deferred action as long as they have re-enrolled by the date of their application. MPI estimates 350,000 unauthorized young adult immigrants (ages 16 and older) without a high school degree or GED could potentially be eligible for relief from deportation if they meet the enrollment criteria.
Now, there’s of course a difference between eligibility and enrollment. The announced fee of $465 for the application could be too steep a cost for some DREAM-eligible immigrants. And while advocates plan to help in the granting of fee waivers, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, which is managing the application process, funds their entire budget from fees, and promises to be tight-fisted with the waivers.
Applicants would get a work permit good for two years, and liberation from the threat of deportation for that period of time. They would have to renew every two years, and would not have a path to citizenship as a result of their deferred action status. A future Administration could choose to cancel the policy at any time.
Of the 1.76 million potential beneficiaries cited by MPI, only 1.26 million would be eligible on August 15. Others would need to come of age to be eligible for the relief, in addition to establishing residency and going to school. So 28% of that 1.76 million figure are under the age of 15 and not yet eligible. But 58% of that remaining 1.26 million figure are already in the labor force. So making them eligible for a work permit will just legalize their activities and bring them out of the shadows. “Employment authorization, together with relief from deportation, is likely to significantly improve the employment conditions and wages of successful DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) applicants, especially for those who have higher levels of education,” the report says.
The MPI paper is very detailed on the demographics of this community. I don’t know if all of them will actually gain deferred action status. But it has a lot of potential.