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Key Factors, Unresolved Issues in New Deferred Action Program for Immigrant Youth Will Determine Its Success

September 23, 2012

Key Factors, Unresolved Issues in New Deferred Action Program for Immigrant Youth Will Determine Its Success
Source: Migration Policy Institute

On August 15, just 60 days after President Obama announced a policy to offer two-year relief from deportation to certain qualifying unauthorized immigrants under the age of 31 who were brought to the United States as children, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications for its new program. Even as many thousands of applicants lined up to apply or seek information on the program’s first day, a number of key factors, some still unknown or unresolved, will ultimately determine the success of an initiative that will allow qualifying unauthorized immigrants a conditional reprieve from deportation.

The most salient issues to be addressed include the efficiency and uniformity of the program by the government and service providers; those of confidentiality concerns for both applicants and their families and employers who have hired them, national and state-level issues of how to qualify for the educational attainment guideline, and unspecified guidelines of what crimes preclude registration. As well, how states choose to react to DACA will be a significant factor in DACA’s implementation, as already Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has issued an executive order noting the state will not grant driver’s licenses or other public benefits to DACA recipients.

Though interpretation of some of the guidelines remains unclear – and it remains an open question how states will react on key issues such as whether DACA beneficiaries are deemed eligible to apply for and receive in-state tuition rates and other criteria – the broad outlines of the program have emerged. In addition to protection from deportation, the program will on a case-by-case basis offer work authorization and possibility of travel abroad to a subset of this specific unauthorized population, popularly referred to as DREAMers (from the proposed Development, Relief, and Education for Minors Act on which the policy is based). The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates that 1.76 million individuals could be potentially eligible for the program, formally titled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), making it the largest US immigration benefit program ever authorized by the US executive branch at one time.

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