Deferred Action Update – Why aren’t more immigrants applying for deferred action program?

When the Obama administration announced in August a plan to grant two-year deportation deferrals to young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, it sparked anger among some critics who said it was little more than a free pass.

Those critics can rest a bit easier now, as it turns out the most recent data provided by the Department of Homeland Security indicate far fewer undocumented immigrants have applied for the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, than expected.

Of the estimated 900,000 young immigrants believed to be eligible for deferred action, just over 300,000 have filed requests with the Department of Homeland Security. Of course, California led the nation in applications. Just over 82,000 were filed by immigrants in California, followed by Texas, New York and Florida. Only 53,000 of the total applications have been approved by the government.

Why so few takers? One explanation is that the program requires a long paper trail. Only those young immigrants who are enrolled in school or served in the military, who came here before they turned 16 and meet a list of other requirements are eligible. And applicants must provide a smorgasbord of documentation, including school transcripts and other records, to be considered.

Another reason is election-year politics. No doubt the presidential election persuaded some young people to hold off filing with the federal government. The number of applications dropped sharply from 117,000 in October to just over 43,000 in the first two weeks of November.

It will be interesting to see if the number of young immigrants who apply increases in the days to come or if meeting the requirements is a bigger deterrent than critics expected.