Washington D.C. – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released (on August 3, 2012) important details about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process, which will temporarily allow some eligible youth to go to school and work without fear of deportation. A recent Immigration Policy Center (IPC) report, Who and Where the DREAMers Are: A Demographic Profile of Immigrants Who Might Benefit from the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action Initiative, provides the most detailed look to date at who is likely to benefit from the new program and where they are located in the country.
The IPC estimates that roughly 936,930 undocumented youth between the ages of 15 and 30 might immediately qualify to apply for the new program. The new report breaks down the deferred action-eligible population by nationality and age at the national and state level, as well as by congressional district.
Because potential applicants reside in all states and every congressional district, today’s announcement clarifying the application process sets the stage for an intense period of preparation around the country, as communities wait for the request form to be released on August 15. The DACA program is designed for young people who are under the age of 31; entered the United States before age 16; have resided in the country for at least five years as of June 15, 2012; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; and are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.
Among the key points shared by USCIS:
• A new form will be available on August 15. All DACA requests will require payment of the standard $85 biometric fee, but no additional fee will be charged. Persons who wish to receive work authorization must pay, with limited exemptions, the current employment authorization document fee of $365.
• Information provided on the form will be kept confidential, including information relating to applicants’ family members or legal guardians, meaning it will not be used for immigration enforcement proceedings, unless the applicant meets current USCIS criteria for referral to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or issuance of a Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court.
• DHS will deem “significant” any misdemeanor, regardless of the sentence imposed, involving burglary, domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, unlawful possession of firearms, driving under the influence, or drug distribution or trafficking. In addition, DHS will deem significant any other misdemeanor for which an applicant was sentenced to more than 90 days in jail, not including suspended sentences and time held pursuant to immigration detention. Minor traffic offenses and convictions for immigration-related offenses classified as felonies or misdemeanors by state laws (e.g. Arizona SB 1070) will not be considered.
Most of the potential beneficiaries of deferred action live in large immigrant-receiving states like California and Texas, but many also reside in North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, and Washington State, and nearly every state has a significant DREAMer population. Also, while nearly 70 percent of potential beneficiaries are from Mexico, there are significant populations from Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Asia. In some states, such as Virginia, the population is quite diverse, with no single dominant nationality.
Knowing who the potential beneficiaries are and where they live will be critical as USCIS initiates this new program. Using this data, USCIS, as well as advocates offering assistance, can locate pockets of potential beneficiaries who may be living in geographic areas that are underserved or who may require information in languages that were unanticipated.