Since the Obama administration kicked in a reprieve from deportation in August, the number of undocumented immigrants who are applying for it has been declining, said a Wall Street Journal story, citing the Department of Homeland Security.
Slightly more than 30,000 immigrants applied in January, the lowest monthly total since the program began, the newspaper reported. Some 15,000 applied by the middle of February, a huge change when compared with the 113,000 applications the agency received in October, the newspaper said.
Experts speculate that the anticipation that Congress will pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would, among other things, offer millions of undocumented immigrants a path to legalization may have lessened the sense of urgency to apply for the reprieve.
Another factor in the drop, experts believe, is the $500 application fee for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
Immigration experts estimate that slightly more than one million undocumented immigrants could be eligible for DACA, which gives a two-year stay from deportation, a work permit and a Social Security number to people who meet a strict set of criteria. That criteria include coming to the United States before the age of 16, having no criminal record, be attending high school or having a high school diploma, among other things.
In all, more than 400,000 people had applied for the program by the middle of February, the Journal reported; about half of them received approval.
"We saw a rush of applicants who stepped forward with all their documents in order," the Journal quoted Emily Creighton, a staff attorney with the American Immigration Council, as saying. But "there are many more who are still afraid to come out of the shadows or who lack access to legal resources."