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As Many as 1.76 Million Unauthorized Immigrant Youth Could Gain Relief from Deportation under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Initiative
Press Release
Tuesday, August 7, 2012

As Many as 1.76 Million Unauthorized Immigrant Youth Could Gain Relief from Deportation under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Initiative

MPI Updates Estimates as DHS Offers More Details on Eligibility Criteria

WASHINGTON — As many as 1.76 million unauthorized immigrants under the age of 31 who were brought to the United States as children could gain a two-year grant of relief from deportation, according to updated Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates that take into account the more detailed eligibility guidelines outlined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on August 3, 2012.

The estimates are up from the 1.39 million figure that MPI released 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.

The Fact Sheet, Relief from Deportation: Demographic Profile of the DREAMers Potentially Eligible under the Deferred Action Policy, provides new and updated estimates on the age, state of residence, educational attainment, country and region of birth, workforce participation and gender of the 1.76 million prospective beneficiaries, often referred to as DREAMers because the criteria for the deferred action initiative largely parallel the requirements of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM Act), which has been introduced in Congress in various forms since 2001.

Using Current Population Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau, MPI estimates as many as 1.76 million people who could be at risk of being deported in the future or who are currently in removal proceedings could gain deferred action as a result of the Obama administration policy that was announced on June 15, 2012.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, which will decide applications on a case-by-case basis, will offer a two-year grant of reprieve from deportation as well as work authorization for unauthorized immigrants who were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 and who can demonstrate that they meet the following criteria:

  • Entered the United States before the age of 16
  • Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007 and up to the present time, and were physically present on June 15, 2012 and at the time of application
  • Are currently in school, have graduated from high school or earned a GED, or are honorably discharged veterans of the US armed forces (including the Coast Guard)
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors; or otherwise pose a threat to public safety or national security
  • Entered the country illegally or overstayed their visa prior to June 15, 2012.

MPI estimates that:

  • 1.26 million of the 1.76 million potential beneficiaries are 15 or older and thus immediately meet the age requirement to apply for deferred action. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ( USCIS) has stated that only those who are 15 or older are eligible to file for deferred action when the process gets underway on August 15, 2012.
  • Five states – California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois – are home to 57 percent of the total population of potential beneficiaries. California has by far the largest population of potential beneficiaries, with 460,000, followed by Texas (210,000), Florida (140,000), New York (110,000) and Illinois (90,000).
  • Nearly three in four (or 1.3 million) prospective beneficiaries were born in Mexico or Central America. Another 11 percent (more than 180,000) came from the rest of Latin America, 9 percent (about 170,000) from Asia and 6 percent (about 110,000) from other parts of the world.
  • An estimated 800,000 children and youth who are potential beneficiaries are currently enrolled in the K-12 system.

“The deferred action initiative, with its education requirements, offers these youth a significant incentive to stay in school and get their high school diploma,” said Margie McHugh, co-director of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “And to the extent it raises hopes for eventual passage of the DREAM Act, it may encourage thousands more to set their sights on a college degree.”

MPI also estimates that 58 percent of the prospective beneficiaries ages 15 and older are in the labor force. “Beyond the relief from deportation, the grant of a work authorization document to those who can demonstrate an economic necessity is likely to improve their chances for decent employment conditions and wages, especially for those who have higher levels of education,” said Doris Meissner, who directs MPI’s U.S. Immigration Policy program.

About 80,000 of the potentially eligible beneficiaries have an associate’s degree or higher; of them 44 percent have a bachelor’s degree and another 8 percent hold an advanced degree.


The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. 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.