MPI: As DACA’s Third Anniversary Nears, Vast Majority of Beneficiaries Eligible to Apply for Renewal Have Done So
WASHINGTON – The vast majority of unauthorized immigrants who received a temporary grant of relief from deportation as well as work authorization under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have applied to renew their benefits as their initial two-year grant neared its end, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) finds.
As the third anniversary of the DACA program approaches, a new analysis by MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy finds that 83 percent, or 355,805, of the 430,396 DACA applicants eligible to renew their benefits had done so as of March 31, 2015. The Obama administration launched the DACA program on August 15, 2012, offering a two-year grant of relief from deportation and work authorization to qualified unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children and meeting length of residence, education and other requirements.
“The fact that 83 percent of those eligible to renew their DACA benefits are applying to do so demonstrates the high value that recipients place on the DACA program, which has provided life-altering benefits to so many,” said Margie McHugh, director of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.
Overall, approximately 750,000 individuals had applied for DACA protection as of March 31—almost half of the nearly 1.6 million unauthorized immigrants ages 15 or older that MPI estimates are potentially eligible to apply. (MPI estimates another 423,000 under age 15 will be eligible to apply once they age in.)
The brief, DACA at the Three-Year Mark: High Pace of Renewals, But Processing Difficulties Evident, finds that even as most DACA participants are applying to renew their benefits as their initial grant nears its end date, the process has been hampered by processing delays within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), confusion over the renewals process, lack of outreach and information and difficulties for some affording the $465 application fee. A further complication: confusion resulting from a legal challenge that has resulted in a federal judge temporarily halting the DACA expansions announced by President Obama in November 2014, which would extend the program to new populations and expand the eligibility period to three years. While the original DACA program remains in place and is not a subject of the legal challenge filed by 26 states, USCIS had to recall approximately 2,100 three-year DACA grants issued after a federal judge blocked the DACA expansions, replacing them with two-year grants.
“Especially in light of the confusion over renewal timeframes, processing delays and scarce outreach and application resources in local communities, renewal rates have been quite high,” said MPI Associate Policy Analyst Angelo Mathay.
To account for renewal processing time, USCIS has asked DACA beneficiaries to file renewal applications 120 to 150 days before their current benefits expire. More than 65,000 renewals were given after the applicant’s DACA grant and employment authorization had expired, according to information USCIS provided in a Freedom of Information Act request filed by a news organization. While it is not possible to determine based on the USCIS data provided whether the 65,000 had all applied 120 days or more before their DACA grants lapsed, at least 11,023 had applied within their renewal window.
The brief notes the severe consequences that can face beneficiaries whose DACA grant and work authorization expire, whether as a result of processing delays or failure to file for renewal: accrual of unlawful presence, which can trigger bars on re-entry to the country should opportunities to apply for legal permanent residence occur in the future; and possible loss of employment, health insurance, driver’s licenses and the ability to apply for internships.
MPI today also launched updates to its online data tool offering estimates of the DACA-eligible population for the United States, 40 states and 100 counties with the largest potentially eligible populations, examining those who currently meet all DACA criteria, those who appear to meet all but the educational criteria and those who are under age 15 and could age into eligibility in the future.
The data tool also offers more detailed sociodemographic profiles of DACA-eligible populations for the United States, 32 states and 39 counties, including top countries and regions of origin, age, gender, educational attainment, English proficiency, top languages spoken at home, employment and income.
Access the DACA data tool at: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/data-hub/deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca-profiles.
The DACA renewals brief can be downloaded at: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/daca-three-year-mark-high-pace-renewals-processing-difficulties-evident.
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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. MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy is a crossroads for elected officials, researchers, state and local agency managers, grassroots leaders and activists, local service providers and others who seek to understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities today’s high rates of immigration create in local communities. For more on the center’s work, visit www.migrationpolicy.org/integration.