As Many as 1.4 Million Unauthorized Immigrant Youth Could Gain Relief from Deportation under Obama Administration Grant of Deferred Action National and State Estimates Offered
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s decision to grant deferred action to certain unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children could provide relief from deportation to as many as 1.4 million noncitizens under the age of 30, according to a Migration Policy Institute (MPI) analysis released today.
Using 2008-2010 Current Population Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau to update a detailed analysis MPI released in 2010 examining the population potentially eligible under the DREAM Act, MPI estimates as many as 1.4 million people under the age of 30 who are either currently in removal proceedings or who could be at risk of being deported in the future could gain deferred action as a result of the administration’s prosecutorial discretion announcement.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano directed that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel on a case-by-case basis exercise prosecutorial discretion for unauthorized immigrants who were under the age of 16 when they entered the United States, have resided here at least five years, and are under the age of 30; are currently in school, have graduated from high school or have a GED, or are honorably discharged from the military or Coast Guard; and have not been convicted of any felony or significant misdemeanor offenses or pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Using the age and educational criteria, MPI has produced the following estimates of those potentially eligible for relief for a period of two years, subject to renewal:
Currently in school (K-12)
15 and above
High school graduate/GED (terminal degree)
College enrollee or college graduate (2-year degree or higher)
Has a college degree
Enrolled in college (16-24)
Source: MPI tabulations of 2008-2010 Current Population Survey data. For complete methodology, see Jeanne Batalova and Margie McHugh, DREAM vs. Reality: An Analysis of Potential DREAM Act Beneficiaries (Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute, 2010), www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/DREAM-Insight-July2010.pdf.
Source: MPI tabulations of 2008-2010 Current Population Survey data. For complete methodology, see Batalova and McHugh, DREAM vs. Reality: An Analysis of Potential DREAM Act Beneficiaries.
“This action by the administration will have a measurable effect on the lives of many immigrants at a time when Washington is deadlocked on making necessary reform to the immigration system,” said Muzaffar Chishti, director of MPI’s office at New York University Law School. “However, a program of this scale will present significant implementation challenges and will need to be addressed with increased capacity, training and oversight.”
Among the capacity issues:
- With unauthorized immigrants 15 and older who meet the deportation-relief criteria being asked to present themselves to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency will face the need to determine eligibility for as many as 890,000 people. The agency already processes more than 5 million applications for immigration benefits per year.
- DHS will have to lay the groundwork for and execute a comprehensive, multilingual media and public outreach campaign to educate immigrant communities on the details of the deferred action and, in a later phase, how to apply for employment authorization.
“While much of the immediate focus is on the numbers of people who might gain relief and assessing the political implications of today’s announcement, there are real capacity and implementation issues that must be assessed,” said Michael Fix, MPI’s senior vice president. “Not the least of which is that this is a case-by-case determination and not a blanket class designation, meaning that this process will surely be labor intensive and provides no automatic guarantee that an applicant will be protected from removal.”
MPI’s earlier extensive work on the DREAM Act-eligible population and prosecutorial discretion can be found at:
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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more on MPI, please visit www.migrationpolicy.org.