Why Have Undocumented Youths Stopped Applying For Deferred Action?


Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a presidential initiative that grants temporary legal presence for nearly one million eligible undocumented youths. Since its creation, over 430,000 immigrants have been approved, with many immigrants taking advantage of first milestones like obtaining a legal driver’s license and work authorization card.

By many accounts, the DACA program has been successful in allowing nearly half a million immigrants come out of the shadows. More than 116,000 immigrants applied for the program in October 2012 alone. But the number of monthly potential applicants tapered off and dramatically fell to 17,962 applicants in May 2013.

Two studies released this week find that DACA applicants are not evenly represented among ethnicity, age, gender, and geographic lines, and these numbers may help explain the drop-off. While those who were educated about the program and able to successfully complete their applications have already applied, other demographics still require greater assistance and outreach.

A Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program study led by Audrey Singer finds that young immigrants, who have applied in high number are able to provide proof of continuous residency since 2007, more easily than older immigrants who may live independently and may have a more difficult time finding documents for that time period. Younger immigrants may also have better access to immigration advocacy events that help the immigrants fill out paperwork.

A Center for American Progress study identifies certain ethnic groups as having less access and information about DACA. The lead author of the CAP study, Tom Wong, emphasizes that “Spanish-language news media has worked to disseminate information about DACA.” Telemundo, a Spanish-language television station went so far as to sponsor an educational forum that “included a general discussion of the program, as well as smaller break out conversations where immigration attorneys were on hand to answer questions about applications.”

In the Asian community, varied media outreach is reflected in rates of DACA applications. South Korean origin applicants have a high rate of application submissions, whereas Chinese origin applicants have a low rate of application submissions. Korean news outlets provided information and resources to aid in the DACA application process, but the Chinese media largely failed to raise awareness. In particular, Wong suggests that “apprehensions that the Chinese community may have about the program” may have impacted the number of Chinese origin applicants.