A group of immigrants, known as DREAMers, hold flowers as they listen to a news conference to kick off the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.2012 Getty Images
On July 22, 2013, a group of "Dreamers" marched to the U.S. port of entry in Nogales, Mexico, where they requested humanitarian parole.AP
The majority of undocumented immigrants who have applied for President Obama’s two-year reprieve from deportation are Mexican, younger than 21 and were less than 10 years old when they came to the United States, according to an in-depth analysis.
The study, released Wednesday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based non-partisan think tank, showed that 54 percent of all those who applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, were not of drinking age. The next largest age group of applicants – with 36 percent – fell between 15 and 18 years old, the study showed.
The Brookings study is the first data-based comprehensive look at the DACA applicants.
Obama implemented the program last August after years of advocacy by students and lawmakers in support of the so-called DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for thousands of young immigrants in the country illegally. Thursday marks the deferred action program’s one-year anniversary.
Efforts to pass the DREAM Act in Congress have repeatedly failed.
Some 557,000 immigrants had applied for DACA as of late June. The vast majority, nearly 75 percent, were approved, 25 percent were still under review and about 1 percent – or 5,383 – were denied.
The program, which marks one of the most significant shifts in immigration policy in recent decades, results in a sort of delayed coming of age: Leaning how to drive, getting a license and landing a first job that's not off the books.
DACA offers work permits for two years, eligible for renewal. To qualify, they must show that they came to America before their 16th birthday, and have been 30 or younger when the policy was announced on June 15, 2012.
They must also either be in school, have graduated from high school or served in the military. And they can't have a serious criminal record or pose a threat to public safety or national security.
With a work permit and Social Security number, they can drive in most states, open a bank account and in some states, pay in-state college tuition.
"Now I feel like I'm actually a member of the community like everyone else," said Frida Ulloa, a 24-year-old student at Florida International University, who came to the U.S. from Peru as a teenager to see her ill father and never went back.
The program does not lead to residency or citizenship, but it also spares these immigrants from the threat of deportation. When Obama announced it last year, critics accused him of pandering to Latino voters a few months before the presidential election.
One of the study’s authors, Audrey Singer, is quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer as saying that the DACA analysis could serve as a tool for discussions about comprehensive immigration reform.
“In some ways, DACA is a dress rehearsal for a broader legalization program,” Singer said, according to Inquirer.
One interesting trend is the large participation of Latinos in DACA, and the under-representation of Asian immigrants.
An attorney, Dave Bennion, who is a member of Philadelphia’s Deferred Action Network, speculated in the Inquirer article that Asians might be “a bit more fearful” than Latinos about coming forward about their undocumented status.
Another factor, he said, is the broad outreach network of Latino groups that disseminates information about various programs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente