WASHINGTON, USA – United States officials say they have made the first approvals a month after they started a programme to suspend deportations of young illegal Caribbean and other immigrants.
Officials said to date more than 72,000 immigrants have applied for the temporary reprieve since the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services began receiving the documents on August 15.
They said the number immigrants requesting two-year deportation deferrals were less than the estimated 250,000 that they were prepared to handle in the first month of the programme, but, at the current rate, at least 200,000 young immigrants could have applications in the pipeline by the time of the presidential election on November 6.
Officials also said many thousands will probably have received deferrals and the work permits that go along with them.
US authorities had originally predicted that it could take several months for the immigration agency to issue the first deferrals.
Observers say the intense activity around the programme in immigrant communities, especially among Latinos, has already yielded some political benefits to Obama, with Democrats repeatedly highlighting the initiative during their recent convention.
Initiated by an executive action, the programme grants deportation deferrals that must be renewed after two years, but it does not provide any legal immigration status.
To be eligible, illegal immigrants must be under 31 years old and have come to the United States before they were 16. They must show that they have lived in the US continuously since June 15, 2007, and be currently in school or have earned a high school diploma or have been honourably discharged from the US Armed Forces.
According to the Migration Policy Institute - a Washington-based nonpartisan research group, as many as 1.2 million illegal immigrants could be immediately eligible for the programme.
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