WASHINGTON, USA — A major think tank here says a significant number of Caribbean nationals who were brought to the United States illegally as young children could benefit from a new deportation policy.
The Barack Obama administration says it will on August 15 begin to process applications from young illegal Caribbean and other immigrants expected to seek the deferrals.
Making the announcement on June 15, President Obama said certain young people who came to the United States as children may be eligible, on a case-by-case basis, to receive deferred action.
In its latest report, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) — an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit think-thank dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide — said it is estimated that there are more than 1.39 million people who could benefit from the initiative.
MPI said the latest figures reflect the updated Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines that youths lacking a high school or equivalent diploma would be eligible to apply for deferred action, as long as they have re-enrolled by the date of their application.
“The deferred action initiative, with its education requirements, offers these youth a significant incentive to stay in school and get their high school diploma,” said Margie McHugh, co-director of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.
“And to the extent it raises hopes for eventual passage of the DREAM Act, it may encourage thousands more to set their sights on a college degree,” she added.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services director Alejandro Mayorkas said applicants would be charged US$465 for each request.
He said applications, which will also include requests for work permits, will be considered individually, with each immigrant undergoing a criminal and national security background check.
Mayorkas said information from the applications would not be used for immigration enforcement, which is handled by a separate agency.
Nevertheless, he said Caribbean and other immigrants found to have serious criminal histories or to pose national security risks would be prosecuted for deportation, and anyone submitting a fraudulent application could face criminal prosecution.
The US government has estimated that more than 800,000 people could benefit from the policy change, while the Pew researchers believe the number is closer to 1.4 million.
The MPI estimates that there are already 1.26 million illegal immigrants in the eligible age range, and another half a million who will become eligible once they turn 15.
It says the states that are home to the highest numbers of qualifying undocumented immigrants are California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois.
Democrats in Congress and civil society groups have been mobilised in recent days to help undocumented immigrants prepare to apply.
In announcing the measure, Obama said it would not be an “amnesty” or a pathway to citizenship, but that it was “the right thing to do”.
The plan has been largely welcomed by the Latino community and analysts say it could boost Obama’s chances for re-election on November 6.
But Republicans accuse the president of acting from political motives, as both sides try to court the increasingly important Hispanic vote ahead of the presidential poll.