By Jennifer Epstein
September 11, 2012
The Obama administration has begun approving young illegal immigrants’ requests to stay in the country under President Barack Obama’s deferred action program, the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday.
Three months after Obama announced the program and one month after the department began taking applications, more than 72,000 people have made requests for two years of deferred action — which can be renewed — and a work permit. The department wouldn’t say how many requests have been approved thus far, just that the process of examining the applications has begun.
“This process will help DHS continue to focus immigration enforcement and ensure that resources are not spent pursuing the removal of low priority cases involving productive young people,” department spokesman Peter Boogaard said in a statement confirming the launch of the processing of applications.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Obama announced the program in June, with the president arguing that it would make immigration policy “more fair, more efficient and more just” by offering reprieves to young adults brought into the country illegally as children.
Ending deportations of young people without criminal histories was a key part of the DREAM Act, legislation that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and allies have tried to push through Congress for more than a decade. But with Congress yet again stalled on the measure, Obama too action where he could.
“This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix,” the president said at a Rose Garden ceremony in June. “This is a temporary stopgap measure.”
The administration likely got well more than 72,000 requests, since some submissions requesting deferred action include applications from multiple people.
Though the earliest applications were approved within a month of their submission, Homeland Security expects that once the system is fully up and running, it will take four to six months for applications to be processed.