Late last week the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) released new acceptance numbers for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Of the 179,794 applications submitted from August 15 until October 10 4,591 were accepted. Doing the math, this means that 2.5 percent of the applications submitted received a positive response, meaning a two-year deportation reprieve and a work permit. USCIS is also claiming that they have not officially rejected anyone yet but that have instead have sent out 1,825 “Notice of Intent to Deny” and ”Request for Evidence, forms which gives the applicants 30 days to correct mistakes, or 84 days to provide more evidence, respectively.
Naysayers of the program, like me, who say this limbo status is an election year ploy, are being told by many to be patient and give the program a chance. After all, according USCIS itself, most applications will take 4 to 6 months to process.
What especially concerns me is that we have no idea what will happen to this program after November 6th, regardless of who wins the presidential election. We also have no idea what will happen once people actually do start getting rejected. Will those rejected be targeted for deportation? Additionally the amount of misinformation about DACA is really troubling. I am still seeing some major media outlets calling it an Executive Order – it is not- it is a Department of Homeland Security Memo. I also have heard some media and organizations refer to DACA as the DREAM Act when actually it gives no legal status beyond a very temporary protected 2 year period.
Last summer, I made a similar criticism of the so-called Morton Memo and the prosecutorial discretion it instructed DHS to follow. The magic number, that is the number of cases found eligible for administrative closure – that is indefinitely suspended- was between 2 and 7 percent, hardly a landslide victory that many immigration advocates were fighting for. I guess we will have to wait and see how high the DACA numbers reach especially as more non-profits push for more applications by election day.
Edited to add on 9/14/2012 – According to today’s New York Times, 29 DACA applications have been approved so far. Hardly a huge number statistically and far from the relief that this is being sold as.
Earlier today there were new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals application numbers and sort of numbers. According the New York Times today, 72,000 DACA applications have been received since USCIS started taking application on August 15th of this year. This contradicts numbers reported on earlier this week by the Wall Street Journal stating 40,000 applications had been filed. It is also being reported that a “small number” of the applications have been approved. How small that number is remains unknown.
The numbers are actually kind of important. In June of this year the Department of Homeland Security released numbers on how many immigration cases that had come under review as low priority and eligible for prosecutorial discretion (Remember the Morton Memo?). Those numbers were far from encouraging. They showed that out of the hundreds of thousands of deportation cases allegedly reviewed, fewer than 2 percent of the cases were closed.
I would be surprised if any solid numbers on DACA applications accepted were released before the election. Especially if the stats don’t match the hype.
The Democratic National Convention may be over but there is no shortage of it being used as an opportunity to push the so called inclusion of immigration as part of the official party platform. This is especially true as both parties try to attract both the Latino vote and donor dollars. While immigration was barely touched at the Republican National Convention, at the DNC immigration was paraded around often, usually with direct or indirect references to the DREAM Act and DREAMers.
Many immigrant organizations touted and used the DNC speech of DREAMer Benita Veliz, the first undocumented person to speak at a political convention. And while I certainly do not want to take this history from her, her speech was as formulaic as Julian Castro’s. Of course I didn’t expect her speech in any way, shape, or form to challenge the very party that invited her to stand and represent what for many has become the immigrant rights movement, a little more nuance would have been welcome especially knowing that there are DREAMers who do look at the DREAM movement(s) with a more critical lens. Not once did she even call herself undocumented. Was this the peak of co-option or moment of simple and important recognition?
The Democratic 2012 Platform (which you can see here as a PDF) doesn’t contain anything on immigration that we haven’t already heard. It promotes law and order immigration reform as a party priority, emphasizing that the undocumented need to get right with the law and learn English as Obama strengthens the border. The platform repeats the finger pointing towards the GOP for the failure of the DREAM Act that Latinos have been hearing all along, distracting us from record breaking deportations while claiming shifting enforcement priorities which are more hype than reality.
For the past week or so, non-profits and politicians have been celebrating the hard fought battle for DREAMers to hand in applications for deferred action and pay the $465 processing fee. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that as many as 1.76 million people nationally could be eligible for deferred action and this has organizations creating essentially assembly line processing programs. Si se puede fill out forms!
If it sounds like I’m downplaying what could potentially be a way for many undocumented immigrants to stay in the country it’s only to balance the hype that is being pumped through the media and masses about the process to apply for consideration for deferred action and what it potentially means.
You’ll remember that back in in June, the Department of Homeland Security released a memo announcing the announcement of a process. Well now we have a process and an application.
Just like with the initial memo, the explanation of the process has created a loud, distracting buzz. I’m not talking about the obvious conservative backlash calling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty. I’m talking about organizations, media, and even schools calling DACA the DREAM Act as if the fighting is over and let’s all just hand over our fingerprints kids. Other orgs are asking for funding to hire attorneys to process applications and passing on the charge to applicants, many who already find the nearly $500 fee a challenge. There has been a deluge of catchy slogans, endless press releases and press conferences from politicos and the non-profit industrial complex touting this program as the end all and be all for DREAMers. There have even been press events inviting the media to watch as undocumented people hand in their application, hoping that they will be among the chosen, allowed to temporarily stay in the U.S. and maybe work for two years or until whoever the new president next year is cuts the program.
What isn’t so often discussed is that with already existing immigration processing backlogs, a closer presidential race than some would like to admit, and no appeals process, this could be a report to deport program. A handful of media outlets and organizations have admitted this and some have even cautioned not rushing to hand in applications until there is evidence that this memo and process actually means something and is more than an election year ploy. As it stands now, it’s not expected that anyone will get any deferral until after the November presidential election. So many orgs are so wrapped up in getting as many applications as they can, akin to voter registration campaigns that sign up as many people as possible with no plan for what’s next. Many of the orgs that are conducting trainings and mass processimn the applications are not offering actual legal representation for those applying for DACA. It will be interesting to see what happens if the process doesn’t align with all the hype and how the orgs who have been prematurely celebrating DACA as a victory handle that reality. In the meantime actual immigration enforcement policies have not changed under Obama. I hope that the DACA process doesn’t become just a diversion while deportation numbers continue to rise.