In just the first two months, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received and accepted for processing 179,794 deferred-action requests. That’s 18.9 percent of the 950,000 immediately eligible individuals. The Immigration Reform and Control Act program reached this level, at the earliest, in the fourth month of application filings; only 3.07 percent of the 2.2 million immigrants who were potentially eligible under that law filed an application in the first month of the law’s enactment, and by the third month as few as 13.3 percent of potential applications had been filed. High participation rates early on in a policy’s implementation are crucial because they send a positive signal that other eligible people should apply. So far, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has done just that. This is an indication of the first benchmark being reached.
Similarly, the high number of filings and the more than 158,000 appointments made for biometric interviews suggest that the second benchmark for success is, at least at this initial stage, also being met: The process for requesting deferred action is streamlined and transparent. Even more suggestive of success in this regard is that in the first two months of the program, 4,591 requests for relief have already been granted. As of October 10 no applicants had received letters of rejection. These positive outcomes signal to other eligible participants who may be hesitant to register with the government that it is safe to come forward and apply. The efficiency and transparency of the process thus encourage more immigrants to apply and increase the potential for the policy’s overall success.
With the Department of Homeland Security putting the first two benchmarks for success on a positive track, policymakers should be considering how to ensure that the program’s successes are taken advantage of as much as possible. These immigrants have the potential to contribute to our economy and society for years to come.
Because the current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy is an administrative act of discretion, however, its impact is limited. A report released this month by the Center for American Progress and the Partnership for a New American Economy, for example, estimated that passing the more permanent DREAM Act—the ultimate legislative solution for these immigrant youth—would add a total of $329 billion to the American economy by 2030. This economic boost would occur because adjusting the legal status of young people to permanent residents leads to higher earnings and subsequently creates a ripple effect throughout the economy.