According to government officials and those familiar with the program, deferred action applications have been slowed by applicants’ concerns about what they must disclose and who will be the next president. Nearly 40,000 young individuals submitted applications during the first three weeks that the government accepted requests for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” According to Chris Bentley, press secretary for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the government will release official numbers later this week.
Thus far, only a fraction of the 1.7 million eligible immigrants have applied. Administration officials said they had expected a flood of requests, creating in turn a large caseload for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security. But according to immigration attorneys and advocacy groups, several issues have deterred potential applicants.
For many, the outcome of the election is a main source of concern due to Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s tough stance on illegal immigration. In a June speech, Romney addressed deferred action, saying, “Some people have asked if I will let stand the president’s executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure.”
Although the government has said application information will not be shared with immigration enforcement, many eligible immigrants remain concerned. “Many people aren’t applying because they fear their families could be at risk of being deported,” said Tabbata Castillo, a 26-year-old undocumented Venezuelan in Nashville who has helped run information sessions for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. According to immigration attorney Laura Lichter, the application form is simple, but can pose problems in some cases. To prove recent residence in the U.S., applicants may need to show work rather than school records. The problem is, undocumented immigrants typically use false identification to secure jobs, which could raise red flags.
The cost of applying is another barrier for families, particularly those who have several eligible children. The application costs about $500, before attorney fees, which can surpass $1,000 apiece.