- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2013

The administration has approved 99.5 percent of applications of those who have applied for legal status under President Obama’s nondeportation policy for young adults, granting legal status to more than 250,000 formerly illegal immigrants.

Officials said they expect the approval rate to drop as more cases make their way through the system, as it takes longer to deny an application than to approve it. Indeed, the approval rate already has dropped from 99.8 percent just a month ago.

But the high rate leaves others wondering whether the administration is doing all it can to weed out fraud or potentially dangerous illegal immigrants in DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as it’s formally known.


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“You really have to wonder who they’re giving deferred action to, and what kind of risk they represent to us,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies. “The screening process is much less for DACA than it would be for a green card, and so it’s all that much more susceptible to fraud.”

DACA is seen by many as a test-run should Congress pass a broad legalization for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), left, shouts at Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y., not shown) as he speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform at the Hart Office Building on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Monday, April 22, 2013. Also pictured is Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), right. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), left, shouts at Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y., not ... more >

That means the pressure is on Homeland Security to get it right, and officials say they are taking steps to combat fraud, including warning that bogus applicants will be prosecuted and deported.


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Mr. Obama created the program last summer to try to help illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents.

His policy allows them to remain and work in the U.S. on tentative legal status with no fear of deportation, though they do not have a direct path to citizenship. That path could come, though, under the immigration bill senators are beginning to debate, which would give DACA-approved immigrants a speedier chance at citizenship.

On Monday, one of those legalized under DACA pleaded with Congress to give her that chance.

“Legalizing people like me, the 11 million of us, will make the United States stronger and will bring about significant economic gains,” said Gabriel Pacheco, who was brought to the U.S. from Ecuador at age 8 by her parents. “Doing nothing is no longer acceptable.”

Her situation captures the complexities of American immigration: One of her sisters is about to earn citizenship as the wife of a U.S. citizen, with two citizen children; another sister is here illegally and didn’t qualify for DACA because she was too old; and her younger brother, 27, who owns a carwashing business, did qualify. Ms. Pacheco’s husband, meanwhile, is a Venezuelan who has lived in the U.S. for 26 years and earned his green card last year after an 18-year wait.

Mr. Obama announced the DACA policy in June, and the government began taking applications in August.

It was a galvanizing moment for immigrant rights advocates, and Hispanic voters in particular rewarded the president by voting for his re-election in overwhelming numbers.

The policy applies to illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before age 16 and who were not yet 31 when the program was announced.

Illegal immigrants with serious criminal records aren’t supposed to qualify. To be eligible, applicants must have graduated from high school or earned an equivalency degree or served in the military.

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