First, let me explain what the Obama program does and does not do. It explicitly does not grant legal status to any group, even those who came illegally as infants or children. Those who are eligible for deferred action are given no path to permanent residency or to citizenship. They are not eligible for government assistance programs that bar other illegal immigrants.
What the federal program does do is to make a decision not to divert limited immigration enforcement resources by targeting for removal illegal immigrants who demonstrate they came here as children and have led exemplary lives ever since. Applicants must be 30 years old or under; have come here before the age of 16 and resided continuously for the previous five years; have completed high school or be in the process of earning a degree or served in the military; have no felony or serious misdemeanor convictions; and have paid taxes, if owed. Those who demonstrate their eligibility will be given temporary employment authorization. Recipients must renew their applications every two years.
Up to 1.7 million of the 4.4 million unauthorized immigrants ages 30 and under could potentially qualify for the new program that went into effect tomorrow that would shield them from deportation and enable them to apply for temporary but renewable work permits, according to new estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.
Some 85% of the 1.7 million young unauthorized immigrants eligible for the administration’s new program are Hispanic, according to estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center. That is higher than the Hispanic share (77%) among the nation’s estimated 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants.
On August 3, 2012, DHS published updated eligibility guidelines for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. According to the updated guidelines (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2012), unauthorized immigrants ages 15 to 30 who arrived in the U.S. before age 16 may qualify for deferred action if:
- They have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007;
- They were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012;
- They are enrolled in school, have a high school diploma or a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the military or Coast Guard by the time of their application;
- And they have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor offense, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not present a threat to national security or public safety.
Unauthorized immigrants who meet these criteria may apply for a deferred action permit that shields them from deportation for two years and also may potentially qualify them for work authorization.
Announced on June 15, 2012, by U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano, the new program, known as “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” potentially provides relief from deportation for eligible unauthorized immigrants who are ages 30 and under and arrived in the U.S. before age 16.
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