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Equity & Diversity

Relief Tally for Undocumented Youths After One Year of Deferred Action

By Lesli A. Maxwell — August 13, 2013 2 min read
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It’s been nearly a year since the Obama administration began its deferred action program that gives eligible undocumented youth who were brought to the United States as children temporary relief from deportation and a shot at work authorization. As of the end of June, roughly 400,000 people had been granted the status.

So, as the first anniversary of the deferred action policy comes this week, who has applied? Who’s been approved? Where do they live? And what possible factors are keeping more potential beneficiaries from seeking the relief?

The Migration Policy Institute has published a new policy brief with answers to all these questions and more. It’s a really useful synopsis of this group of undocumented young people, whose chances at obtaining a path to citizenship seem the most promising as Congress continues to wrestle with immigration reform legislation.

Among the highlights from MPI’s report:

• More than 500,000 individuals applied for relief between Aug. 15, 2012, and June 30. Nearly 75 percent were approved, 1 percent were denied, and the others were still pending.

• Georgia, Illinois, and North Carolina have had the highest rates of application, while Florida and New York, despite some of the largest numbers of potential beneficiaries, have had the lowest rates.

• Youth born in Mexico (who make up nearly 60 percent of those who are eligible) had the highest application rates, followed by Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

• Chinese applicants have hardly registered a blip even though China ranks ninth among countries of origin for potential beneficiaries.

• Most currently eligible youth have strong English-speaking skills. Broken down further, 60 percent are considered bilingual, while 9 percent speak English only. Thirty-one percent are not yet proficient in English.

MPI estimates that more than 420,000 undocumented young people who meet the age and other non-education criteria would fall short of winning relief because they have no high school diploma or GED, and are not currently enrolled in school. Fifty-eight percent of potential beneficiaries in this group have some high school credits, while 42 percent have completed no high school grades. They struggle more with English proficiency, are poorer, are more likely to have children, and have higher rates of employment than their peers who meet the education requirements—all of which present substantial barriers to completing the schooling criteria.

The experts at MPI will be hosting a video chat on the brief and other issues related to deferred action and immigration reform on Wednesday at 2:30 Eastern.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.