Deferred Action, One Year Later
Deferred Action is a year old, what impact has it had.
Last fall I sat in a classroom at the Baylor School of Law and took part in a free seminar on the recently implemented Deferred Action program. The seminar highlighted the problems that face our changing demographic populace. In the room were between 150-200 high school and college age kids trapped in limbo. Their parents had entered the country illegally and now they, as kids were living in the margins to some degree. They were incredibly articulate, intelligent kids who wanted and needed a legal avenue to make their American Dream work.
They looked like a cross section of almost any high school in America, because they were. This is the changing face of our country and the question is how are we addressing it. The problem is that our solutions are polarizing. We have to be honest with ourselves and understand that these kids aren’t going anywhere. The government isn’t going to haul them off and send them back to whichever country they came from. For many amnesty isn’t a desireable option. The room by the way was largely Hispanic, but there were also a number of students from Asia, Africa and eastern European countries. We met with them one on one to talk through the Deferred Action requirement and what they would need to get together to apply. We had a similar event in Huntsville a few months later.
Deferred Action allows individuals to remain in the U.S. and apply for a work permit. A grant of deferred action is temporary and does not provide a path to lawful permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship. However, a person granted deferred action is considered by the federal government to be lawfully present in the U.S. for as long as the grant of deferred action is in effect. In practice is hits a pause button on any removal proceedings, until something else is done to enact immigration reform.
The basic requirements are that an individual…
- Born on or after June 16, 1981
- Came to the United States before reaching 16th birthday
- Have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007 (the past 5 years), up to the present time
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making DACA application
- Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012
- Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, or obtained a general education certificate (GED)
- Have NOT been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety
- Be at least 15 years old to file an application
So what is the upshot of the program? Results were overwhelmingly positive according to a study by the Brookings Institute. Some highlights:
More than half a million young undocumented immigrants applied for deferred action between August 2012 and July 2013, according to the most recent figures from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The bulk of applications in the first six months were from high school- and college-age students, the Brookings Institution reports.
54 percent of applicants were under the age of 21, and 36 percent were between the ages of 15 and 18, notes the nonprofit think tank, which did an independent analysis of the program's applications from Aug. 15, 2012 through March 22, 2013.
Over the past year, 61 percent of immigrants granted deferred status obtained a driver's license, the same proportion landed a new job.
54 percent opened their first bank account, according to a survey by the Immigration Policy Center.
The program has also dangled an educational carrot for some. Deferred action, which requires students be enrolled in school, or have a high school or GED diploma, could serve as a "motivation to finish school and to even go back and get a GED," Roberto Gonzalez, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration, told U.S. News last year.
As Congress wrestles with some form of “comprehensive” immigration reform, Deferred Action has provided a way for some to find a way out of limbo and into a more productive life.