Litigation often reveals fascinating information tough to obtain otherwise and the states’ lawsuit against the federal government’s use of its executive powers to provide temporary lawful status to many migrants already in the United States is proving to be no exception (for more on that lawsuit see my article here). A document that the United States filed in federal court last week provides a much-needed glimpse into DACA’s internal operations.
In a formal declaration, Donald W. Neufeld, the associate director for service center operations at USCIS, gives a detailed accounting of the number of DACA applications the government has received and how those have fared. Between the program’s launch and December 31, 2014, Neufeld explained, USCIS accepted 727,164 requests. Of those, 638,897 were approved, 38,597 denied, and the rest remain pending. Meanwhile, the government received 970,735 requests for employment authorization and approved 825,640.
Obviously Neufeld couldn’t provide any information about how things will turn out under the expanded DACA program and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). The government hasn’t started accepting applications for either. Still, the DACA data provides a useful guide from which to extrapolate. At the time that DACA launched in 2012, the government estimated that 1.2 million might be eligible. The 727,164 DACA applications received through the end of 2014 constitute roughly 60% of the total number estimated eligible for DACA.
The DAPA program is more expansive. Current estimates, Neufeld wrote, put the DAPA-eligible population at about 3.85 million and the government expects about 50% (or 1.9 million people) to apply in the first 18 months. This is more than double the number of DACA applications received. As an estimate, it might move up or down. Either way, USCIS is clearly in for a major increase in its workload.
Despite the budget debates happening in Congress—with Republicans threatening to hold back funding for DHS as a whole or just the department’s ability to implement President Obama’s law enforcement prioritization scheme—the fact of the matter is that DACA is funded by fees applicants pay and DAPA will be funded in the same way. USCIS, therefore, expects to have the money to ramp up its staff and facilities to meet this challenge. As a result, it has already started to obtain more office space, Neufeld told the court.
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