Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) October 22, 2012 – A smaller number of people than expected have applied for a new program to allow certain undocumented immigrants to live and work in the U.S.
Of 1.7 million people who are potentially eligible for the program, only about 120,000, as of October 1, 2012 have applied. The program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), allows undocumented immigrants 30 years of age or younger, who arrived in the U.S. as children, to avoid deportation and receive a Social Security Number (SSN) and work permit. The program does not provide a green card, nor does it provide permanent residency.
“Out of a potential pool of 1.7 million young persons without status, estimated to be eligible for DACA, a scant 40,000 have filed applications within the first three weeks that the program has been operational, and approximately 120,000 have filed by the end of September, 2012,” said Stewart Rabinowitz, a Dallas immigration attorney.
“Fear – perhaps justifiable fear – rules. Fear over a Republican victory in the fall 2012 presidential election after candidate Mitt Romney has taken a hard line against immigrants. Fear that parents and other non-qualifying relatives will come to DHS’ attention and be deported. Fear because no one has any experience with a program of this scope seeking a purely discretionary benefit.”
Rabinowitz added, “USCIS currently estimates a 4-6 month adjudication time period for DACA cases. The presidential election outcome should firm up whether the DACA program stagnates or skyrockets.” USCIS reports that only 200 cases have been approved as of early October, 2012.
The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute issued an estimate that approximately 1.2 million people are presently eligible to apply for the program, with another half-million young people reaching the age of 15 – the minimum age for eligibility – within a few years. The largest number of eligible immigrants live in California, Florida, New York and Texas.
Officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had braced for a flood of applications – up to 300,000 by October 1, 2012 – that has not yet come. Observers report that many people are waiting to see the outcome of the Presidential election, as Republican Mitt Romney has vowed to take a hard line on immigration and not to extend DACA benefits after 2 years if elected. Potential applicants have also hesitated for fear that information they divulge relating to their parents or other relatives may be used to deport them. Government officials have said that information submitted under the program, with limited exception, will not be shared with immigration enforcement.
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Dallas, Texas 75254