In First Year of New Program, Deportation Is Deferred for 400,000 Young Immigrants

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas peaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 10, 2013, following a meeting between President Barack Obama and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The president planned to meet with the 26-member Congressional Hispanic Caucus on their shared goal of passing an immigration overhaul bill in the House. 
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Rebecca Kaplan
Aug. 15, 2013, 3:09 p.m.

About 400,000 “Dream­ers” have been al­lowed to stay in the United States in the year since the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion began ac­cept­ing ap­plic­a­tions for young il­leg­al im­mig­rants to de­fer de­port­a­tion pro­ceed­ings and re­ceive work per­mits, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion and re­leased on the an­niversary of the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram.

The num­bers show that out of more than a half-mil­lion ap­plic­ants for de­ferred ac­tion, more than three-quar­ters were ac­cep­ted and just 1 per­cent denied. The ap­plic­a­tions were con­cen­trated in states that already have large im­mig­rant com­munit­ies, such as Cali­for­nia, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Flor­ida. On the East Coast, the ap­plic­a­tions were from a more di­verse set of coun­tries while in the West, Mid­w­est, and South the vast ma­jor­ity of ap­plic­ants were from Mex­ico.

“DACA has been an in­cred­ible suc­cess for our coun­try,” said Con­gres­sion­al His­pan­ic Caucus Chair­man Ruben Hino­josa, D-Texas. “To date we have giv­en 400,000 young im­mig­rants the abil­ity to con­tin­ue to con­trib­ute to this coun­try, the only coun­try that most of these out­stand­ing in­di­vidu­als have ever known.”

The fate of these young­er im­mig­rants brought to the coun­try il­leg­ally as chil­dren — the so-called Dream­ers — is less pre­cari­ous than many of the oth­er 11 mil­lion people liv­ing in the U.S. without pa­pers. Law­makers have been quick­er to agree that the Dream­ers de­serve spe­cial treat­ment, in­clud­ing an ex­ped­ited path to cit­izen­ship.

Hino­josa and oth­er sup­port­ers of im­mig­ra­tion re­form point to the DACA pro­gram, which began a year ago Thursday, as a sign of pro­gress; some see it as an in­dic­a­tion of what Pres­id­ent Obama will do for oth­er un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants if Con­gress does not act.

“The over­whelm­ing suc­cess of this pro­gram also gives me op­tim­ism that we can move bey­ond the polit­ic­al rhet­or­ic on a broad­er im­mig­ra­tion re­form bill,” Hino­josa said. “It is my great hope that when we re­turn from re­cess, Con­gress can fi­nally be­gin work on passing a broad­er im­mig­ra­tion re­form bill with an earned path­way to cit­izen­ship.”

The Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment has also poin­ted to their suc­cess­ful im­ple­ment­a­tion of the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram as evid­ence that it is struc­tur­ally pre­pared to deal with a ma­jor im­mig­ra­tion over­haul.

But at least one law­maker who backs com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion re­form, Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Fla., has poin­ted to the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­gram as a reas­on the House needs to act to ad­dress the en­tirety of the im­mig­ra­tion sys­tem. The Sen­ate passed a com­pre­hens­ive re­form pack­age in June.

“I be­lieve that this pres­id­ent will be temp­ted, if noth­ing hap­pens in Con­gress, to is­sue an ex­ec­ut­ive or­der as he did for the Dream Act kids a year ago, where he ba­sic­ally leg­al­izes 11 mil­lion people by the sign of a pen,” Ru­bio said dur­ing an in­ter­view with ra­dio sta­tion WFLA earli­er this week.

Brook­ings sup­ple­men­ted monthly U.S. Cit­izen­ship and Im­mig­ra­tion Ser­vices data with a Free­dom of In­form­a­tion Act re­quest to DHS for more in­form­a­tion about the size, demo­graph­ics, geo­graph­ic dis­tri­bu­tion, age, and year of ar­rival of ap­plic­ants to the DACA pro­gram.

Based on es­tim­ates that 936,000 eli­gible im­mig­rants were liv­ing in the U.S. when the pro­gram began, 59 per­cent have ap­plied. The ap­plic­ants come from 192 coun­tries, al­though 96 per­cent are from the same 25 coun­tries that have at least 1,000 ap­plic­ants each. The vast ma­jor­ity of ap­plic­ants, 75 per­cent, are from Mex­ico, with the next largest group, 4 per­cent, from El Sal­vador. At least 1 per­cent of ap­plic­ants hailed from Hon­dur­as, Guatem­ala, South Korea, Peru, Brazil, Colom­bia, and Ecuador.

The study’s au­thors say the trends among DACA ap­plic­ants could pre­view the demo­graph­ics of a large-scale leg­al­iz­a­tion of un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants. Ex­perts spec­u­lated that ag­gress­ive cov­er­age of the pro­gram by Span­ish-lan­guage me­dia could ac­count for the high per­cent­age of ap­plic­ants from Span­ish-speak­ing coun­tries. By com­par­is­on, only 4 per­cent of ap­plic­ants came from Asi­an coun­tries, even though it is es­tim­ated that they rep­res­ent 6 per­cent of eli­gible im­mig­rants for the pro­gram.

Ap­plic­ants for the pro­gram had to ar­rive in the U.S. be­fore age 16 and reside here without leg­al status since June 15, 2007. The most fre­quent age of ar­rival was 8, though two-thirds came to the U.S. be­fore they were 10 years old. There was a spike in im­mig­ra­tion between 1998 and 2001, which rep­res­ent the peak years of ar­rival for DACA ap­plic­ants.

House mem­bers de­par­ted for the Au­gust re­cess with a hand­ful of single-is­sue im­mig­ra­tion bills and no timeline for when they might get a fi­nal vote. None of the ex­ist­ing bills ad­dresses the vast ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion that came to the U.S. il­leg­ally as adults.

Yet an­oth­er group of high-pro­file Re­pub­lic­ans, in­clud­ing former Mis­sis­sippi Gov. Haley Bar­bour and former Sec­ret­ary of State Con­doleezza Rice, came out Thursday in fa­vor of a se­quence of pro­vi­sion­al leg­al status, leg­al per­man­ent res­id­ency, and cit­izen­ship for im­mig­rants.

Bar­bour and Rice, along with former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and former U.S. Hous­ing and Urb­an De­vel­op­ment Sec­ret­ary Henry Cis­ner­os — both Demo­crats — were the co­chairs of the Bi­par­tis­an Policy Cen­ter’s Im­mig­ra­tion Task Force, which is­sued re­com­mend­a­tions for im­mig­ra­tion re­form Thursday.

“I be­lieve if there is a rig­or­ous path to cit­izen­ship that does have rig­or­ous re­quire­ments, I’m com­fort­able with it,” Bar­bour said on a con­fer­ence call with re­port­ers.

The BPC re­com­mend­a­tions broadly track with the le­gis­la­tion ap­proved by the Sen­ate, al­though task force mem­bers say they hope their sug­ges­tions will im­prove the bill. In par­tic­u­lar, they called for more pre­cise met­rics to meas­ure bor­der se­cur­ity.

“The cur­rent Sen­ate bill provides ad­di­tion­al bor­der as­sets, such as more bor­der per­son­nel and tech­no­logy. However, it does not provide out­come-based bor­der-se­cur­ity met­rics that are trust­worthy and veri­fi­able, such as meas­ur­ing the net in­flow of il­leg­al mi­grants or the per­cent­age of in­di­vidu­als who over­stay their visas,” the re­port said. “We be­lieve the United States should es­tab­lish a sci­en­tific­ally val­id set of meas­ures that are audited by an in­de­pend­ent com­mis­sion and pub­lished peri­od­ic­ally for pub­lic scru­tiny.”

It’s un­clear wheth­er the re­com­mend­a­tions will have that much ef­fect on law­makers who are home hear­ing from their con­stitu­ents — some of whom don’t want to ex­tend cit­izen­ship to im­mig­rants here il­leg­ally. The task force plans to pub­li­cize its re­com­mend­a­tions at events throughout the coun­try as well as through op-eds in loc­al news­pa­pers. Mem­bers also will be tak­ing the re­port to meet­ings on Cap­it­ol Hill.

The de­cision to re­lease the re­com­mend­a­tions dur­ing the Au­gust re­cess was not meant to pres­sure law­makers, but rather to put out a straight­for­ward plan that “gets a bird’s eye view of the ma­jor pil­lars of a bal­anced re­form,” said former Home­land Se­cur­ity Sec­ret­ary Mi­chael Cher­toff, a mem­ber of the BPC task force. “Hope­fully that will help [the Amer­ic­an people] en­gage and talk to their rep­res­ent­at­ives.”

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