Here is the ghost of the Dream Act. For years, Democrats and some Republicans wanted to help young undocumented immigrants — specifically, college- or military-bound kids who grew up in the U.S. — find a path to lawful residency. The bill gained some momentum early in Obama’s first term, but in spite of heartfelt demonstrations across the nation, including a 1,500 mile march on Washington, it never passed.

So in 2012, Obama ordered a stopgap measure. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a Department of Homeland Security program that allows young immigrants to forestall deportation for two years if they come forward and register. In the family that Tina Griego talked to, the two eldest children are deferred-action recipients. They can get real Social Security numbers, and are allowed to work. For now, when their two years are up they can renew for two more years (after paying another $465 application fee). And after that, who knows?

It’s a weird sort of limbo, and not everyone has taken Obama up on the offer.


The Migration Policy Institute estimates that about 1.1 million are currently eligible for deferred action, of which 49 percent have applied. Immigrants from Mexico make up most of the mix.

What’s surprising is that immigrants from some countries seem extremely reluctant to participate. As of last summer, about 64 percent of eligible Mexican immigrants had applied for DACA, but only 16 percent of eligible Filipino immigrants had done so. In December, the New York Times reported on activists who are trying to encourage more Asian immigrants to register. Some speculate that Asian communities might have fewer resources for the undocumented, or might be more suspicious of such programs.

Jeff Guo is a staff writer for Storyline. He's from Maryland (but outside the Beltway). Follow him on Twitter: @_jeffguo.