Where and Who Are The Young People Eligible for the President’s “Deferred Action” Initiative

The Obama Administration’s “deferred action” initiative for unauthorized youth who were brought to this country as children has raised a number of crucial questions. How many people will be eligible? Who are they? And where do they live? A new analysis by the Immigration Policy Center (IPC), together with Rob Paral & Associates, provides some answers. While other analyses have produced national and state-level estimates of how many immigrants could benefit from the deferred action initiative, the IPC report provides a new level of detail, breaking down the eligible population by nationality and age at not only the national and state level, but the congressional district level as well.

According to the IPC report, there are approximately 1.4 million immigrants currently in the United States who might meet the requirements of the deferred action initiative, either now or when they are older. Roughly 936,930 are between the ages of 15 and 30 and might immediately meet the requirements. They comprise 69 percent of all potential beneficiaries. Yet approximately 426,330 immigrants between the ages of 5 and 14 might meet the requirements at some point in the future only if the initiative remains in place. They comprise 31 percent of all potential beneficiaries.

Not surprisingly, nearly half of potential beneficiaries (both immediate and future) live in California and Texas, and most are Mexican. But there are significant numbers in virtually every state, and they come from all corners of the globe. The states with the most potential beneficiaries are California (412,560), Texas (226,700), Florida (85,750), New York (70,170), and Illinois (67,460). Roughly 68 percent of potential beneficiaries are Mexican, while 13 percent are from other countries in North and Central America (including the Caribbean). Approximately 8 percent of potential beneficiaries are from Asia, 7 percent from South America, 2 percent from Europe, and 2 percent from other parts of the world.

 The IPC report also reveals that potential beneficiaries from different parts of the world are distributed differently across the country. The greatest numbers of potential beneficiaries from Mexico, for instance, are found in California (326,250), Texas (196,130), Illinois (56,850), Arizona (49,860), and Georgia (25,590). The greatest numbers of potential beneficiaries from other countries in North and Central America live in California (37,210), Florida (30,590), New York (22,840), Texas (16,910), and New Jersey (9,570). And the greatest numbers of potential beneficiaries from Asian countries are in California (35,950), New York (10,850), New Jersey (6,120), Texas (6,120), and Illinois (3,900).

In the biggest immigrant-receiving states, Mexicans predominate among potential beneficiaries. However, in other states, they do not. In California, for instance, Mexicans comprise 326,250 of potential beneficiaries, followed distantly by other countries in North and Central America (37,210) and Asia (35,950). In Florida, on the other hand, the largest numbers of potential beneficiaries are from North and Central American countries other than Mexico (30,590), followed by South America (29,160) and Mexico (20,460).

Demographic details such as these are important as the federal government gears up to implement the deferred action initiative, and as community groups prepare to assist the populations they serve in taking advantage of this opportunity. Knowing how many immigrants are eligible, what countries they come from, and how old they are will be key to the success of the initiative. In particular, it is important to remember that there are hundreds of thousands of unauthorized children who are not yet eligible to apply for deferred action, but who will become eligible in the coming years. As a result, there is an urgent need for Congress to create permanent and lasting solutions to the plight of these unauthorized young people.

Photo by Mr. Lujan


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  1. fonz arelli says:

    The fact that this doesn’t offer any permanent residence for any of us just shows the lack of motivation and action on getting this resolved on their behalf. I have been living in the U.S. since i was 5 years old and I’m 23 years old now. I was an honors student throughout my time attending school. Life has been extremely complicated for so long that it’s become normal to live in fear of being taken to a country that you know NOTHING about. I feel as if i have wasted precious years that i could’ve spent being a productive individual throughout my community and also further pursuing my education. Setting ambitious goals and accomplishing them was always a dream of mine but this currently failed system has made it a crime for me to transport myself to school and back. It’s basically a life of living in the shadows while realizing your true potential is held down because of a technicality. It’s a shame that someone who feels just as much of an American as anyone is cast out to the side. Most of us don’t even remember ever even being in another country, the life here is all we know. All of our friends are here as well. It’s just unfair that someone who was brought here without even being conscious of it is treated this way. I personally consider myself an intellectual individual and i have always enjoyed sharing knowledge with people and
    when i tell them i’m “illegal” they always laugh and think I’m joking. I have to admit, i get a laugh out of it too because i know i have the determination to become someone who can make a positive change if i was just released from the invisible prison in which i live in. My girlfriend of 7 years and I are expecting our first child soon and the future seems uncertain that i cannot help but stress every second about what’s going to happen with me and my future child. I hope this burden of being brought here doesn’t come back to haunt me. I guess all i have left to do is just keep my faith strong and approach life head on as i always have.

  2. I am ashamed that we have treated intelligent, driven young people like you like you are criminals, it just hurts my heart. You have my support.

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