Being an immigration attorney in Austin, Texas, I am a little surprised that more young people are not signing up for the deferred action program that provides two year deportation deferrals if they came to the U.S. before turning sixteen. Of the estimated 2,000,000 undocumented immigrants eligible to receive the deferrals, only 309,000 have signed up. The majority of these applications originated in California, followed by Texas, New York and Florida.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program allows young people who entered the country before their 16th birthday to remain in the country for at least two more years if their application is accepted. The requirements for acceptance are demanding; applicants must pay $465 for the application fee, document that they have not committed any serious crimes and show that they have lived continuously in the U.S. for the past five years.
After an initial flood of applicants in September the number of applicants has tapered off somewhat. At its peak, there were 5,715 applications a day in September, but this has dropped to 4,527 in November. Some of this could have been attributed to many young immigrants having misgivings about the solidity of the program, after Mitt Romney voiced his intention to discontinue the program if he is elected. If that were the sole reason, however, the number of applications should have climbed following Romney’s defeat.
That has not been the case, and many officials are baffled by the steady decline. One of the biggest challenges for young people is the steep requirements. Many eligible immigrants do not possess the documentation proving they have lived continuously in the U.S. for the past five years. Since many of these young people have existed in the marginalized areas of society, producing the documents for U.S. residency has been difficult.
Another factor is the cost. At $465, the program is a large investment for many young people. Many of these potential applicants also look at the additional costs and likelihood of acceptance. The federal government has approved almost 299,000 of the more than 309,000 applications received so far. Many of these youths fear that acceptance is unlikely or will require the assistance of an immigration attorney. The costs associated with a long, protracted legal battle are something few can or are willing to afford.
The final consideration that may be limiting response to the DACA act is the new influence of Latino voters on the government in Washington D.C. The growing influence of Latino voters, as evidenced in last month’s election, has suggested to the Latino community that the federal government may finally be poised to make sweeping changes in immigration law. If that is the case, the DACA program may be replaced with a much more lasting and less rigorous pathway to legal residency or citizenship.
If you are considering applying to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, you should discuss your situation with an immigration attorney before applying. DACA cases cannot be appealed so seeking the expert advice of a seasoned immigration lawyer may make the difference in getting a petition approved. Call us for a consultation at (512) 512-5225.