Study: Most eligible immigrants in New Jersey have not applied for DACA

The majority of immigrants who qualify for DACA in New Jersey have not applied, possibly because they are unaware of the program or their eligibility.

Since 2012, certain immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children have been eligible to apply for deferred action on deportation. Per the Asbury Park Press, about 1.3 million young people in the U.S. qualify for protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive action, and about 820,000 have applied for it. Surprisingly, however, a new study reveals that the majority of immigrants in New Jersey who qualify for deferred action under DACA have not applied.

Low application rates

The study from the Migration Policy Institute found that, nationally, about 63 percent of all eligible immigrants have applied for deferred action. Here in New Jersey, which ranks among the six states with the greatest number of eligible young immigrants, the rate is just 43 percent. In contrast, in other states with similar immigrant populations, over 50 percent of immigrants have applied.

According to the study, about 53,000 young immigrants throughout New Jersey are eligible for deferred action on deportation. As of March 2016, just 23,000 had applied for it.

Potential explanations

Professionals such as immigrant advocates and attorneys believe the application rate may be so low because many local immigrants may not realize they are eligible for deferred action on deportation. Others may not even know about the executive action. The language barrier may be a factor in some of these cases, while other immigrants may lack needed access to legal services.

DACA eligibility

Under DACA, immigrants who are under the age of 30 may be eligible for deferred action on deportation if they meet several criteria, according to the U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services. These include:

  • They need to have resided in the U.S. for at least five uninterrupted years and been present in the U.S. on the date that the executive action was issued.
  • They must not have any felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or a serious misdemeanor conviction.
  • They cannot be considered a threat to national security.
  • They must be graduated from high school, in school, in possession of a general educational development certificate or honorably discharged from U.S. armed services.

There is an exception to the age limit for people who currently face removal and deportation proceedings; these immigrants may apply for DACA even if they are younger than 15 years old. To apply, immigrants must provide evidence that they meet the above criteria, complete forms from the USCIC and submit this information to the USCIS. Those who are approved will receive deferred action on deportation for two years and a work permit for the same period.

Anyone considering applying for deferred action on deportation or exploring other options for remaining in the U.S. should consider turning to an attorney for advice and assistance.