One year into a government program to grant work permits and defer deportation for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, more than half of the estimated pool of eligible applicants have applied and most applicants have been approved, according to a new analysis by the Brookings Institution.
Although the government provides regular tallies of applications and acceptance rates for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Brookings study, released Wednesday, used information obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request to create a more granular profile of applicants through March 22. It used details such as age, gender, state of residence and country of origin.
The program, whose one-year anniversary is Thursday, was designed in part to reduce the caseloads of customs and border-control agents to allow them to focus on immigrants who had committed crimes. It is open to people without serious criminal records who arrived in the United States before the age of 16 and are younger than 31 at the time of applying. They must have completed or be enrolled in high school or its equivalent, or be an honorably discharged veteran, and they must have lived continuously in the United States without legal status since 2007.
Of the 936,000 people estimated to meet these requirements at the time the program was announced, 59 percent have applied. Of the applications submitted, 3.5 percent were rejected by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services because they were incomplete. Nearly three-quarters of those accepted for consideration were approved, and 1 percent were denied, with 24.5 percent still under review, according to the study, which showed applications peaking last fall and then plateauing. The application process is ongoing.
Applicants to the program tend to skew on the young side of the eligibility spectrum, the study found, with 54 percent younger than 21. States with long-established immigrant populations had a higher share of older applicants, and states with more recent immigration histories tended to have younger applicants. Fifty-one percent of all applicants were women.
California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Florida, which have among the largest foreign-born populations, also had the most applicants. High numbers also applied from North Carolina, Arizona and Georgia, which are among the states with the fastest-growing immigrant populations in recent years, according to the report.
Three quarters, or 348,579 applicants, came from Mexico, with 10 percent from Central America. South Americans accounted for 7 percent; Asians, 4 percent; and Caribbeans, 2 percent.
The DACA results may provide a microcosm of what comprehensive immigration change could look like, said Audrey Singer, a senior fellow at Brookings and an author of the study.
“In some ways, this program is a test run for what a broader legalization process could look like,” she said. “A similar set of criteria will be in place — applicants will need to prove they were here over a certain period of time — and at the same time, USCIS has had an experience of what adjudicating applications for legalization would look like.”
The rate of applications and approvals is not always consistent with the population of estimated eligible immigrants, according to a coming study by the Center for American Progress, which will host an event on the topic Thursday.
Older applicants are more likely to be denied than younger ones, according to the center’s study, which uses the same Freedom of Information Act data as the Brookings report. Males are 1.4 times more likely to have their applications denied; application rates vary widely from state to state; and Mexicans and South Americans are more likely to be accepted than people from other countries, according to the study.
Possible reasons for the gender discrepancy include the fact that males tend to have higher rates of criminality and are more likely to drop out of high school, the study said.
The higher acceptance rate for Mexicans and South Americans may have to do with “a very aggressive push by Spanish language media to get out the information about DACA,” said Philip Wolgin, a senior policy analyst for immigration at center, adding that one reason more younger people apply may be because it is easier for them to prove continuous residency.