The Homeland Security Department has granted legal status to 99.2 percent of all illegal immigrants who have applied under President Obama's new non-deportation policy for young adults, according to the latest numbers released Friday.
That's a slight drop from the 99.5 percent approval rate reported last month.
The policy, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, grants legal status to most illegal immigrants under the age of 31 who came to the U.S. before age 16 — usually brought by their parents. They are allowed to remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation, and are given work permits. Most states have agreed to issue them driver's licenses as well.
DACA is seen as a test-run should Congress pass a broad legalization for the 11 million illegal immigrants estimated to be in the U.S.
That's one reason why the high approval rate is striking.
Critics of the Obama policy say a rate that high means the administration isn't doing much screening of those who are applying.
But supporters say the high rate makes sense given the motivated pool of youngsters, known as "Dreamers" because of the Dream Act legislation that would give them full citizenship rights.
Estimates ranged to more than 1 million Dreamers who could apply for the new policy, though as of the end of April about 500,000 applications had been submitted in the eight and a half months DACA has been available. Of those, 291,859 have been approved while only 2,352 had been denied. The rest are still in processing
Officials say the denial rate should go higher as more applications make their way through the system. Because of potential appeals, it takes longer for a denial to be finalized than it takes to make an approval.
For example, of applications finalized in February, the agency approved 99.4 percent. But in April that rate dropped to 96.7 percent.
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