Nearly 1.8 million undocumented immigrants could have their deportations suspended for two years, and legally obtain jobs here, under President Obama’s recent policy to give them leniency.
That number is significantly higher than the earlier estimate of a maximum of 1.3 million immigrants who could benefit, thanks to newly released guidelines that expanded the pool of eligible applicants, said the Migration Policy Institute.
The Migration Policy Institute, or MPI, had come up with the earlier number of 1.3 million after analyzing data, but on Tuesday raised the number. The President's plan aims to give reprieve to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors.
Obama Administration officials have said their estimates put the number of immigrants who would qualify at about 800,000; that was before the new guidelines. Initially, the guidelines called for applicants to have graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED.
The new MPI report said the revised estimate reflects “the updated DHS guidelines that youth lacking a high school or GED degree would be eligible to apply for deferred action as long as they have re-enrolled by the date of their application.”
“MPI estimates 350,000 unauthorized young adult immigrants (ages 16 and older) without a high school degree or GED could potentially be eligible for relief from deportation if they meet the enrollment criteria.”
Under the administration plan, undocumented immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, complete – or are in the process of completing – high school or served in the military. They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.
The President’s plan to give relief to these immigrants stems from the view of many advocates of more lenient immigration policies that undocumented people brought to the United States as minors should not be penalized for the decision of their parents to break immigration laws. These advocates argue that those brought here as minors grew up in the United States, see this as their homeland, and can contribute to U.S. society.
Efforts to pass national legislation – called the DREAM Act, which stands for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors -- granting them a pathway to legalization have failed several times since first being introduced in 2001.
Those who want tougher immigration enforcement reacted to news about the higher estimate with more condemnation of Obama’s plan to give the so-called DREAMers relief. They say that giving a reprieve to undocumented immigrants is equal to rewarding law-breaking.
“No surprise here; without a proper legislative foundation, without a proper evaluation of the impact on taxpayers, communities and the labor market, with only the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen, we see here an assertion of absolute power that will simply corrupt indefinitely,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington D.C.-based group that favors strict immigration enforcement.
“The numbers from here will grow and grow. The Administration is asserting a virtually limitless new power, governed only by its own political judgment and interests. It is a dangerous violations of the civil rights of all Americans."
The President’s plan, called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, will decide applications on a case-by-case basis. The administration says it will begin processing applications on August 15.
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has said he opposes the DREAM Act, though he says he supports giving some type of conditional legal status to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors who commit to serving in the military.
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
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