Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

More young people may qualify for deferred action than previously thought

An estimate of potential deferred action beneficiaries, by age group
An estimate of potential deferred action beneficiaries, by age group
Source: Migration Policy Institute

Now that Homeland Security officials have issued detailed guidelines on who may may qualify for deferred action, temporary legal status that young undocumented immigrants can apply for under a new Obama administration plan, it looks like there could be more applicants in the pipeline than estimated before.

The change comes after the guidelines, released last Friday, clarified that youths lacking a high school diploma or GED would be still eligible to apply, so long as they have re-enrolled in school by the date of their application. This raises the number of potentially eligible young people, estimated at as many as 1.39 million in June by the Migration Policy Institute, to 1.76 million.

MPI now estimates that with the educational requirements as they stand, an additional 350,000 young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors could eligible for deferred action if they meet other criteria.

The application process is set to start Aug. 15, and already, lawmakers and immigration officials have worried about logistical challenges, including what it could cost in staff hours. Applicants must pay a processing fee of $465, although a limited number may be able to obtain waivers.

Those eligible for deferred action must have arrived in the United States before age 16, have been no older than 30 as of last June 15, have a record free of felonies or serious misdemeanors and have lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007, although the new guidelines clarified that “brief, casual and innocent" trips abroad should not disqualify them.

Right now, MPI estimates that of the total who could be eligible, some 1.26 million young people meet the age criteria to apply right away. And if the program sticks, provided a change in administration after the November election doesn't do away with it, many others could be eligible in the future, some kids now in kindergarten. MPI estimates that some 500,000 children ages 5-14 may meet the requirements, which include an entry-by window. Applicants must have either either entered the U.S. without inspection or fallen out of legal status before June 15, 2012.

More details on deferred action and the forthcoming application process: