The Obama administration next week will begin accepting applications for deferred action from what it expects to be hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the country illegally.
The policy, which was announced June 15, grants relief from deportation proceedings to certain immigrants who meet certain guidelines. Two-year work permits will also be issued to qualified applicants.
The administration has argued that the directive is part of the government’s efforts to spend its limited resources on deporting serious criminal immigrants. It has championed the measure as a way to reward children brought to the country illegally through no fault of their own, but who have since excelled in school and stayed out if trouble.
Opponents, however, claim the move is little more than election-year pandering that places illegal immigrants ahead of unemployed Americans.
Some lawmakers estimate that as many as 800,000 people will benefit from the policy, while the Immigration Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, puts the figure of people who could immediately benefit closer to 937,000. About 426,000 more could potentially qualify if the policy is kept in place and they apply when they are older.
The policy pertains to certain immigrants brought to the country illegally before they were 16 and who were younger than 31 as of the June 15 announcement. Applicants must have graduated or currently be enrolled in school, have earned a GED or be an honorably discharged veteran of the armed forces. They must have also lived in the country consistently since June 15, 2007, and never have been convicted of a serious misdemeanor, three misdemeanors or a felony.
Texas is second to California in the number of beneficiaries who could immediately apply, with about 152,550 to California’s 298,000, according to the IPC. If the policy is kept in place, about 74,000 and 114,500 could potentially apply in Texas and California, respectively, when they are older.
This interactive map reflects how many illegal immigrants could benefit immediately and if the program is kept in place after this year, using information from the Immigration Policy Center. The potential applicants’ countries of origins are also included. Click on the map to see detailed information on potential beneficiaries in each congressional district.
The program could cost more than $585 million to implement, according to an Associated Press report released last month. On Friday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said applicants would be charged a $415 fee to apply, which USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas said would offset the cots of the program. The AP reported that the costs could range from $467 million to $585 million during the program’s first two years, with revenues estimated at about $484 million, meaning the government could gain or lose money depending on how many applicants surface.
Opponents of the plan, including key congressional leaders, have blasted the Obama administration over the initiative. After USCIS announced additional details about the program, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, said the policy gives “lawbreakers an unfair advantage over legal immigrants.”
“When will this President’s assault on the rule of law and the American people end?” Smith said in a news release.
But the Immigration Policy Center says there is an economic benefit to giving legal status and issuing work permits to thousands of illegal immigrants, specifically because it increases their standard of living and how much they pay in taxes. The center found that college graduates earn about 60 percent more in income over their lifetime than those with no college degree, and that immigrants who were given legal status after the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 saw their wages increase about 15 percent over five years.
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