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Why DACA Matters – One Year Later

It’s been just over a year since the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program was implemented by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS).  To mark its anniversary, the Brookings Institute recently conducted a review of the past 12 months of the DACA program based on documents provided by USCIS from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  Its findings are very interesting and can be accessed in full here. Here are some of the interesting highlights:

1. More than a half million people have applied for DACA from August 2012 to June 2013. Seventy-two percent of applications received were approved while only 1% was denied.

2. Mexico is country of origin for 74.9% of DACA applicants.  El Salvador is second (4%) and Honduras is third (2.75%).

3. DACA applicants overwhelming reside in California, Texas and New York, Illinois and Florida.  Check out Brookings’ interactive map on these demographics.

4. More than 1/3 of DACA applicants are between the age of 15 and 18.

5. Nearly 3/4 of DACA applicants have lived in the U.S. for at least a decade and 1/3 since they were 5 years old or younger.

Our readers can also access more information about DACA by attending “DACA-One Year Later” webinar hosted by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) on August 22, 2013 at 2pm Eastern.

Why the DACA Program Is Important to USCIS

Although the recent efforts to overhaul our immigration laws have reached an impasse in the House, nevertheless the prospect of comprehensive immigration reform remains a real objective.  At some point in the future, our immigration reform laws will be overhauled.  To that end, USCIS will be responsible for processing a significant increase in applicants for immigration services and benefits. What types of protocols should be established?

Today, the DACA Program provides USCIS a strong test-case for how to manage a sizeable surge in applicants.  The DACA Program provides data for USCIS to assess whether the application fees were enough; evaluate the number of minutes (or hours) it took to review applications; and evaluate protocols for rejecting incomplete application, issuing Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and issuing denials.

USCIS will very likely take the DACA model and apply it to comprehensive immigration reform requirements, when the time comes.

For now, although the number of DACA applications has slowed, the program remains ongoing and provides valuable insight into how our country will move forward with immigration reform.