More than 72,000 young undocumented immigrants across the U.S. have applied for relief from deportation since the Obama administration introduced a change in immigration policy that went into effect last month – and the first requests were granted earlier this week, officials said Tuesday.
The number of eligible applicants is estimated to be 1.26 million nationwide and 80,000 within New York state, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington, D.C.
Immigration attorneys said one reason why the number of those who already submitted their requests is not higher is that it has been taking longer than expected to get the necessary documents ready.
Lawyers also said that some immigrants are struggling to come up with the $465 filing fee, or are fearful of exposing their status and that of their family members and are unsure what will happen with this policy after the presidential elections in November.
To qualify, immigrants must show they arrived in the United States before their 16th birthday, are under the age of 31, and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years. They also need to have a high school diploma or a G.E.D., or currently be in school and must not have been convicted of a serious crime.
Those seeking a two-year deportation deferral and work permit send in their request to one of the three USCIS lockboxes, and if their request is accepted, are scheduled for a biometric appointment.
Once a background check is completed, USCIS makes a decision.
Although the first requests for deferred action have already been approved, it is expected it will take on average between four and six months for requests to be processed.